Police had originally said 14 men were abducted — and that 17 female employees were released — from a bus Tuesday. But on Wednesday police upped the number to 16. Representational image. Ben185/Gettyimages

On Wednesday, assailants hurled at least one explosive device at a police station located in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico.

This incident occurred amidst an extensive search operation for 16 police employees who were forcibly taken at gunpoint on a local highway.

These attacks serve as a stark reminder of an emerging power struggle between rival cartels vying for control over law enforcement in the state, which shares a border with Guatemala.

The battle also encompasses the desire to dominate drug trafficking and the transportation of migrants through the region.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed the kidnappings were part of a battle between two gangs, saying, "Nowadays that is the most common thing ... that the groups clash."

According to President López Obrador, the abducted men were employed at a local prison, likely serving as guards or administrative staff, although they are officially listed as state police personnel.

Initially, authorities reported that 14 men were taken hostage from a bus on Tuesday, with 17 female employees subsequently released.

However, on Wednesday, the police revised the number of abducted individuals to 16.

The spread of cartel-related conflicts into Chiapas signifies an escalation in the region. While the state has long grappled with land disputes, ethnic tensions, political unrest, and religious conflicts, it had previously been largely spared from the drug cartel violence experienced in other parts of the country.

The president has taken a sort of paternalistic, non-confrontational attitude toward the cartels, and on Wednesday said, "They had better release them (the abducted police employees). If not, I'm going to tell on them to their fathers and grandfathers."

Additionally, on Wednesday, authorities in the city of Tapachula, situated near the border, reported that two patrol vehicles sustained damage in an explosion that occurred outside a police station late Tuesday.

The origin of the homemade explosive and the identity of those responsible for the incident remain unknown at present, AP News reported.

Over 1,000 state and federal law enforcement officers have been engaged in an extensive search, utilizing both ground and aerial operations, to locate the missing police employees.

The individuals were forcibly removed from the bus earlier on Tuesday by armed assailants.

On Wednesday, a video surfaced on social media featuring the abducted police employees.

One of the victims in the video stated that the abductors were demanding the resignation of at least three state police officials, including the second-in-command of the force.

The allegations made by one of the cartels operating in Chiapas suggest that these officials are accused of showing favoritism towards a rival gang.

Notably, the individuals in the video did not appear to be restrained or exhibit any evident signs of mistreatment.

The police employees were traveling towards the capital city of Chiapas when their vehicle was intercepted by several trucks carrying armed gunmen.

While the women in the vehicle were released, the men were taken away by the assailants.

The abduction occurred on the highway connecting Ocozocoautla and Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital. In relation to the incident, two men found near the scene were apprehended by the police for further questioning.

On Jun. 19, a clash between the military and individuals suspected to be involved in organized crime resulted in the deaths of a National Guard officer and a civilian in Ocozocoautla.

This incident took place in close proximity to the location where the kidnapping of the police employees occurred on Tuesday.

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