EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A top law-enforcement official is blaming a drug cartel for the murder of two Chihuahua state police officers, three civilians and a Mexican immigration agent.

The roadside massacre happened late Friday in a rural area west of Juarez known as a hotbed for migrant smuggling activity. It also comes days after the governor of Chihuahua signed a memorandum of understanding with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to step up efforts against drug and migrant smuggling in her state.

“These cowardly acts seek to weaken and destabilize (law enforcement). We have worked to capture those who generate violence, we have seized (drugs) and hit hard the criminal organizations that operate in the area,” Chihuahua Attorney General Roberto Fierro said in a statement. “We will not lower our guard; we will not allow criminals to (intimidate) us.”

The victims included state police officers Alejandro Dominguez and Gil Malo Solano. Dominguez headed the state police garrison in the town of Janos – a strategic junction of roads leading to Southeast Arizona, Southern New Mexico, Chihuahua City and Juarez. The head of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute in the area, Lorenzo Pico Escobar, also was killed.

The AG’s Office said several vehicles traveling on Mexico Highway 2 were ambushed by gunmen. Videos shared on social media show a white pickup crashed against the side of a mountain and a second pickup smoldering a few yards ahead. More vehicles are on fire about a quarter-mile away.

Police said one of the vehicles, a gray GMC pickup, had Texas license plates and was riddled with bullets. The other vehicles were a white Ford pickup, a black Chevrolet and two others that were so burned up that their make and model have not been established yet.

Authorities believed the two police officers attempted to fire back at their attackers but they don’t know if they were able to hit their targets or if any of the burned vehicles belonged to the attackers. A submachine gun was found in one of the wrecks.

Police officers investigate the scene where a state police commander and his wife were killed in Juarez on Saturday. (Border Report photo)

The attack took place in a corner of Chihuahua where La Linea and the Sinaloa cartel have been at war for several years. Janos is near Nuevo Casas Grandes, the reported stronghold of La Linea boss Jesus Venzor Salas Aguayo.

Speaking to reporters in Chihuahua City on Saturday, Fierro said the initial investigation points La Linea drug cartel being behind the attack.

On Monday, Secretary of Government Cesar Jauregui said a second attack, this one in Juarez on Saturday, claimed the life of another state police commander and his wife. He said he doesn’t know if the two incidents are related but said it is clear organized criminal groups are upset with the authorities.

He said three suspects were in custody for the murder of the police commander in Juarez and seven people were being questioned in Janos in connection to organized criminal activity in the area.