Edgar Millan Gomez

MEXICO CITY (MCT) — An assassin lying in wait Thursday gunned down a top police commander, one of the architects of Mexico's bloody battle against paramilitary cartels.

Edgar Millan Gomez, the acting head of the Federal Police, was the third senior official of the newly integrated force to be shot to death in a week in Mexico City.

Millan, who held a news conference May 1 announcing arrests and cash seizures against the Sinaloa cartel, was shot 10 times as he entered his apartment in a modest Mexico City neighborhood in the early morning hours, police said.

His accused killer, Alejandro Ramirez Baez, lay in wait inside Millan's home and opened fire at point-blank range as the policeman entered, police told the Mexico City newspaper El Universal. Two bodyguards were shot and wounded as they detained Ramirez. Police said they suspected the killer had been hired by the Sinaloa cartel.

Analysts said the rash of police killings in the Mexican capital represented an escalation in the drug war by the cartels.

"This is a demonstration of their power," said Arturo Yanez, a Mexico City police trainer and former adviser to the federal attorney general's office. "Never in the history of Mexico have police been targeted in this way, least of all in Mexico City, which had mostly been spared from the violence. But once it starts here, no one is going to stop it."

While the government points to the rising death count as a sign that it is winning the drug war by provoking more drastic actions by the drug traffickers, Yanez said the mounting body count shows just the opposite.

"How many people have to die before we know that we have won the war?" he said.

Yanez said the killings of three Federal Police commanders in a week shows how disorganized and ineffective law enforcement agencies have become.

The ongoing integration of the Federal Preventative Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has created rivalries that have distracted them from the drug fight, he said. "The institutional weakness is pathetic; they can't even protect their own people."

President Felipe Calderon, who has ordered thousands of federal troops into drug hotspots, expressed condolences for the latest killing. In a statement, the president's office praised Millan for his determination and "for the serious damage he inflicted on the operative and financial structure of organized crime."

U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza said Mexico had "lost another hero" and urged the U.S. Congress to pass a package of anti-drug aid to Mexico known as the Merida Initiative.

Millan, 42, was the coordinator for regional security and the highest-ranking Federal Police officer. He coordinated operations with the military, including cocaine seizures against the Sinaloa cartel.

A U.S. investigator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his killing was likely "retaliation for the arrest of key Sinaloa cartel leaders."

"The executions will likely worsen in the weeks, months to come as cartels respond to Calderon's aggressive campaign," the investigator said. "These are signs of desperation. But you have to give the Calderon administration credit for remaining firm in their campaign."

Late last week, two Federal Police commanders were shot to death in Mexico City. Police said robbery may have been the motive in one of those slayings.

Separately, four Federal Police officers were killed in clashes with drug cartels in the northern state of Sinaloa, home to the cartel of the same name.

In addition to the seven federal officers killed, six state and local law enforcement officials have been slain in May. Calderon has said that 300 police officers have been killed in the last year.

Arturo Arango Duran, a researcher at the Citizens' Institute for Security Studies, said bodyguards cannot protect Mexican police officials from the narcos.

"When one person wants to kill another, he does it, and that's what is happening now," he said. "What needs to be done is to quickly improve the intelligence work, starting with trustworthy information — something we don't have in our police."

Two senior officials were killed this week in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, despite the presence of more than 2,000 soldiers. Police Sgt. Saul Pena Lopez died from multiple gunshot wounds Wednesday. On Monday, special state prosecutor Berenice Garcia Corral was gunned down, hit more than 30 times by shots from an AK-47 assault rifle, officials said. Garcia was investigating the killings of women in Juarez.