MEXICO CITY, July 24 (UPI) -- Mexico's organized crime offensive against law enforcement agents and government officials reached a new high Friday after armed gangs killed 26 people, including police and other officials.
Army and police units were on alert and on frequent patrols in cities hit by the latest carnage, most of it linked to organized crime retaliation against police attempts to curb drug-trafficking and other crimes, official media reported.
Many of the killings have been blamed on La Familia drug cartel, one of the most violent organized crime networks in Mexico.
The Public Security Secretariat, quoted by the media, said organized crime assailants killed four police agents and six other individuals in a restaurant, and three other people were wounded in another attack.
In Juarez City, in the northern state of Chihuahua, scene of hundreds of killings of innocent civilians in recent years, an armed gang attacked five members of a family Thursday afternoon, killing four of them and leaving one seriously injured, officials said.
In the border municipality of Ojinaga, also in Chihuahua, Federal Public Ministry agent Patricia Gardea was shot dead while on the way to work in the local office of the attorney general.
Other killings took place in Nuevo Casas Grandes and Parral, both in the Chihuahua state, and in the states of Veracruz, Baja California and Nuevo Leon.
Another armed gang attacked a police garrison in Playas del Rosarito municipality, Baja California.
The drug-related violence has claimed more than 7,700 lives since last year, according to government figures, despite the deployment of 36,000 troops and federal police in the affected cities and towns. La Familia gangs have been responsible for defiant acts of violence in President Felipe Calderon's state of Michoacan.
Earlier in July, in a single execution-style attack, La Familia tortured and killed 12 federal agents and then dumped their bodies by a roadside.
The killing of an anti-crime activist, Benjamin LeBaron, and his neighbor Luis Widmar on July 9 caused widespread outrage in Mexico. The lower House of Congress observed a minute of silence in tribute. LeBaron, 32, and Widmar, 29, were abducted by an armed gang and then shot on a nearby road. The killings were in apparent retaliation for police arrests following the kidnapping of LeBaron's 13-year-old brother Eric, who was released before the killings.
LeBaron, a member of a small Mormon community of dual Mexican-U.S. nationals in northern Chihuahua state, was an active campaigner against drug-related crime.
A banner left by the killers said LeBaron's death was in retaliation for the arrests of 25 suspects by the army and police following Eric LeBaron's abduction.