UPDATE 10:38 p.m. EST: The New York Times reports that three people are in custody after one of the bloodiest confrontations in years between Mexican security forces and drug gang members. Mexico's head of national security Monte Alejandro Rubido confirmed that 42 attackers had been killed. He said one federal police officer was killed. Earlier reports had said two officers were killed and one was seriously injured. Rubido said fighting began after a police convoy was ambushed. 

UPDATE 10:08 p.m. EST: Mexican officals speaking anonymously told Reuters that at least 44 people were killed Friday in a shootout in western Mexico between security forces and suspected drug gang members. Two officers were killed and one was seriously wounded. The rest of the casualties occured at a ranch in Tanhuato municipality in the state of Michoacán. The gunmen were suspected members of the Jalisco New Generation drug gang. The shootout occured near the border between the states of Michoacán and Jalisco. Rocket launchers were among the weapons found at the ranch. Federal authorities replaced local police in the area last week after a local mayoral candidate was assassainated. 

Original story begins here: 

Security forces clashed with police in the western Mexican state of Michoacán, killing at least 39 people, according to Reuters. The shootout took place in the town of Tinaja de Vargas, in the municipality Tanhuato, about 80 miles southeast of Guadalajara, the capital of neighboring Jalisco state, according to El Financiero newspaper.  

Press reports say Black Hawk helicopters were seen flying overhead as members of Mexico’s army, navy and federal police moved into the area Friday afternoon.

Among the confirmed dead are two federal police officers, with Mexican news agency Agnecia Quadratín noting the death toll was at least 46, including three officers. Tanhuato Mayor José Ignacio Cuevas said federal police were attacked. Images posted on Twitter purport to show bloodied bodies from the area lying next to machine guns and a plume of black smoke rising in the air. 

“There are numerous dead, but federal attorney’s office staff have only just been sent [to investigate],” a government source told the Mexican daily Reforma. Interior Secretariat spokesman Roberto Femat blamed the actions on “criminal suspects,” according to El Financiero.

Michoacán is home to the Knights Templar drug cartel and criminal organization, which was formed in 2011 after Nazario Moreno González, the head of La Familia Michoacana drug cartel, was taken out by security forces in March 2014. The state is also plagued by clashes between smaller criminal gangs as well as self-described civilian self-defense groups that have cropped up in the region. These groups sometimes challenge local authorities they believe are allied with rival groups or with the drug cartels.

After Federal Electricity Commission installations were attacked in October 2013, security forces stepped up their presence in the state. It’s believed that the Knights Templar was behind attacks on Mexico’s energy installations as retaliation for government efforts to crack down on their activities.