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Mexican police hunt cartel leaders

Federal police have set up a series of blockades in the hunt for top leaders of the La Familia drug cartel in a western Mexican state.

The resulting shootouts during the operation left at least five people dead, including a baby.

Federal police believe that several La Familia members may have been killed, including one of its top leaders, said Alejandro Poire, government spokesman for security issues.

"The way the criminals have tried to protect themselves as they fled from our operations and information suggests that we have located and are closely pursuing high-level leaders of La Familia Michoacana," Mr Poire said.

The shootout began on Wednesday night when federal police investigating a tip-off about the presence of armed men in Apatzingan in Michoacan state came under fire from La Familia gunmen. The gunmen fired on civilian cars and used the sometimes-burning vehicles as barricades.

One of those killed was an eight-month-old baby who was riding in a taxi with his mother, the state attorney general's office confirmed.

The Michoacan Attorney General's Office said the total number of people killed was five, including two federal police officers. Three other officers were injured.

The Public Safety Department statement said a third group of gunmen ambushed another federal police unit trying to come to the aid of their colleagues. The gunmen blocked a highway leading into Apatzingan to prevent the police from advancing.

The blockades continued on Thursday in Morelia, the picturesque colonial capital of Michoacan state.

The gunmen arrived at all five roads leading into Morelia and fired into the air to force drivers and passengers from their vehicles, said Jonathan Arrendondo, a spokesman for the attorney general's office of Michoacan state, where the city is located.

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