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13 Law Enforcement Officers Killed in Mexico Ambush

MEXICO CITY — Gunmen on Thursday ambushed a Mexican government convoy conducting a security patrol southwest of the capital, killing 13 prosecutors and police officers in what appeared to be the deadliest assault on Mexican law enforcement in well over a year, officials said.

The attack was a major setback to government security forces and yet another reminder of the severe security challenges facing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The president took office in 2018 promising to make Mexico a safer place, but he has been unable to put a meaningful dent in the violence that has long bloodied the country.

Rodrigo Martínez Celis Wogau, security minister for the State of Mexico, called the ambush “an affront to the Mexican state” and promised to “respond with total force.”

The convoy on Thursday was patrolling in Coatepec Harinas, about 40 miles southwest of Mexico City, the capital, to “combat criminal groups who operate in that zone,” Mr. Martínez added in a video statement posted on Twitter.

gunmen killed 14 police officers in the state of Michoacán.

The slayings in central Mexico on Thursday added to the 86 police officers who had been killed this year already, according to Causa en Común, a Mexican anti-corruption group that focuses on public security.

Last year was the deadliest year for police since the group began tracking deaths in 2018, with at least 524 officers killed.

Like most crimes in Mexico, the majority of police killings go unpunished, security analysts say.

“The feeling that’s left is that it’s possible to attack an agent of the state without consequences,” said Alejandro Hope, a Mexico City-based security analyst. “If we can’t protect the lives of the police, how can we ask them to protect ours?”

The federal government immediately responded to the killings on Thursday by deploying elements of the Marines, the Army and the National Guard to the area, Mr. Martinez said.

Officials made no immediate comment about potential suspects in the attack.

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Prosecutor Seeks Life Sentence for Americans in Killing of Italian Officer

ROME — An Italian prosecutor on Saturday asked that two San Francisco men on trial in the 2019 killing of a military police officer in Rome receive the maximum sentence of life in prison.

Wrapping up a nearly four-hour summation in a stuffy Rome courtroom, the prosecutor, Maria Sabina Calabretta, argued that the two men acted with “homicidal intent” when they assaulted Deputy Brig. Mario Cerciello Rega and his partner on a July night in 2019.

“A grave injustice” had been “committed against a good man who was working,” she said, and only the convictions of Finnegan Elder, 21 and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20, would ensure that the officer “not be killed again.”

The yearlong trial has drawn intense media scrutiny in Italy and headlines in the United States with its focus on the behavior of the two Americans the night of the confrontation and the tragic death of the newly married officer.

this past week, Mr. Elder testified that he thought the two plainclothes officers were “thugs” sent by the middleman whose knapsack they had stolen, and that he and Mr. Natale Hjorth had acted in self-defense after the two officers jumped them. He said he had “panicked,” and stabbed Brigadier Cerciello Rega, who he thought was trying to choke him.

Mr. Elder testified that the two officers did not identify themselves as carabinieri and that they did not show their badges when they approached him and Mr. Natale Hjorth, a San Francisco school friend who had joined him for two days in Rome during the last leg of a summer trip in Europe.

Ms. Calabretta on Saturday challenged Mr. Elder’s account of the confrontation, noting that Officer Varriale had testified last summer that the officers had identified themselves as law enforcement and shown their badges.

The prosecutor also contested the defense narrative that suggested that the two Americans had been unexpectedly tackled by the officers from behind. Instead, she said Saturday, the two officers had approached them head-on and had been assaulted by the defendants without a second thought.

“Cerciello had no time to react,” she said.

“It was a violent, deadly, disproportionate attack,” she said.

Mr. Elder had brought a knife to the encounter, a sign of his “homicidal intent,” she added.

In his statement to the court last Monday, Mr. Elder said he had put the knife in the pocket of his hoodie because it made him “feel safer.”

After the confrontation, the two defendants returned to their nearby hotel unaware, they testified, of the seriousness of Brigadier Cerciello Rega’s condition. They were arrested in their hotel room a few hours later.

In asking for a life sentence, Ms. Calabretta said that neither the young age of the defendants nor their lack of criminal records should mitigate “the seriousness of the crime.”

The two defendants have also been charged with extortion for asking for money and a gram of cocaine in exchange for the backpack.

Ms. Calabretta said Saturday that even though Mr. Natale Hjorth had not wielded the knife that killed the officer he was equally guilty, the mastermind of the plot to exchange the backpack for money.

His lawyer, Francesco Petrelli, said Saturday that the prosecutor had asked for “the wrong sanction for the wrong defendant in a wrong trial.”

A verdict is expected before the summer.

Brigadier Cerciello Rega’s widow, Rosa Maria Esilio, declined to speak to reporters on Saturday. Her lawyer, Massimo Ferrandino, said the prosecutor’s request resulted from an “exhaustive” investigation that would now be up to the jury to confirm.

“We look forward to justice being done,” he said.

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