A senior US official has said there is strong circumstantial evidence that Mexican federal police who fired on a US Embassy vehicle, wounding two CIA officers, were working for organised crime in a targeted assassination attempt.
Meanwhile, a Mexican official with knowledge of the case confirmed that prosecutors are investigating whether the Beltran Leyva Cartel was behind the August 24 ambush.
The Mexican official said that is among several lines of investigation into the shooting of an armoured SUV that was clearly marked with diplomatic number plates on a rural road near Cuernavaca south of Mexico City. Federal police, at times battered by allegations of infiltration and corruption by drug cartels, have said the shooting was a case of mistaken identity as officers were looking into the kidnapping of a government employee in that area.
"That's not a 'We're trying to shake down a couple people for a traffic violation sort of operation. That's a 'We are specifically trying to kill the people in this vehicle'," a US official familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press. "This is not a 'Whoops, we got the wrong people.' "
Photos of the grey Toyota SUV, a model known to be used by Drug Enforcement Administration agents and other US Embassy employees working in Mexico, showed it riddled with heavy gunfire. The US Embassy called the attack an "ambush".
When asked if the Mexican federal police officers involved in the shooting were tied to organised crime, the US official said, "The circumstantial evidence is pretty damn strong."
Federal police on Tuesday maintained the position that their agents fired on the vehicle by mistake, thinking it belonged to a band of kidnappers they were pursuing, according to a spokesman who was not authorised to speak on the record.
The US State Department declined to discuss details.
"We will not comment on an ongoing investigation," said William Ostick, a spokesman. "This is a matter of great significance to both our countries and we will continue to cooperate with Mexican authorities in their investigation."
The Mexican official said one line of investigation is that members of the Beltran Leyva Cartel were interested in attacking the people in the car because some of their lookouts had seen them passing through the area and presumed they were investigating the cartel. It is possible they did not know they were Americans.