Three die in Mexico airport shootout

Tue, Jun 26, 2012, 01:00

Three federal police officers were killed in a shootout in a busy passenger terminal at the Mexico City airport as they prepared to arrest two fellow officers in a drug-trafficking investigation, authorities have said.

Travellers ducked for cover and scrambled into toilets amid shots in the food court of Terminal 2, one of two main passenger hubs at one of Latin America's busiest airports.

Federal authorities said officers had gone to the terminal intending to make arrests and were fired upon by the two men.

The suspects fled, although the police said in a statement that they had identified them as "elements of the Federal Police" and were trying to track them down. The airport has generally been considered safe.

But under its placid surface it has also become a hub for trafficking.Jose Ramon Salinas, spokesman for the federal public safety department, said the arrests that were to be made yesterday were the result of an 18-month investigation that has led to the arrest of more than 180 people.

In late 2010, the authorities discovered that a cartel was operating out of the airport, aided by flight attendants from the country's largest airline, AeroMexico, who they said helped transport cocaine to Spain.

A follow-up investigation led to the arrest of members of the private security company that operates security checkpoints inside the airport. The authorities said they were turning a blind eye to drug-filled suitcases passing through scanners.

The federal police have seized 200kg, of cocaine at the airport so far this year, compared with 90kg confiscated last year.

The violence stirred anxiety across the city. "The type of people that use the airport are high middle class that used to feel more or less safe in Mexico City," said Jorge Chabat, an expert on security and drug trafficking at CIDE, a Mexico City research group.

New York Times