The shooting began shortly before 9 a.m. local time (7 a.m. PDT) when police moved in to arrest a number of suspected drug traffickers in Terminal 2 of the Benito Juarez International Airport, officials and witnesses said. The suspects opened fire, killing two police officers on the spot, and a third died later of his wounds, the federal police department said in a statement.
"Upon seeing themselves surrounded by Federal Police, they fired on police," the statement said, without specifying how many suspects were involved.
Witnesses reported seeing two gunmen who fled. The police did not say whether any suspects were arrested. One witness told Mexican reporters that the gunmen appeared to be wearing uniforms.
No civilians were hurt in the shooting, which erupted near the terminal's food court and sent waiting passengers and airport employees scrambling for cover, under tables and into bathrooms.
An airport spokesman, Jorge Andres Gomez, said no flights were affected and airport operations continued normally.
Despite a brutal drug war that has claimed more than 50,000 lives in nearly six years, violence at the airport is rare. Gomez said he could not recall a similar incident.
"I didn't think it was gunfire because of where we were, the airport," a witness told Milenio Television, describing the moments when the shooting began. "It looked like a chase. ... They kept firing at one guy on the floor."
Drug cartels have reportedly controlled some operations at the airport over the years but have not interfered with passengers' travel. The airport has also been used to move cocaine and other drugs. Police said they have confiscated 200 kilos of cocaine at the airport this year.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Mexican Federal Police officers stand guard Monday at an entrance to Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, where three police officers were killed in a shootout with suspected drug traffickers. Credit: Alfredo Estrella / AFP/Getty Images