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Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #36: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mines (Minas Antipersonales) Recovered in Reynosa, Tamaulipas

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Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #36: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mines (Minas Antipersonales) Recovered in Reynosa, Tamaulipas

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan

Two anti-personnel mines (minas antipersonales) were recovered from suspected members of the Cartel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel) in Reynosa, Tamaulipas on Wednesday, 7 February 2018 by Mexican Army (Ejército Mexicano) (SEDENA) personnel from the Eighth Military Zone (Octava Zona Militar).

Key Information: “Decomisan dos minas antipersonales en Tamaulipas.” El Heraldo de México. 7 February 2018, https://heraldodemexico.com.mx/estados/tamaulipas-decomisan-dos-minas-antipersonales/:

Dos minas antipersonales, entre otras armas de alto poder, droga y combustible fueron aseguradas por personal del Ejército Mexicano. Ocurrió en diversas acciones desplegadas, en Reynosa, Tamaulipas. En estos hechos, tres personas fueron detenidas.

Al intensificar durante las últimas 48 horas el patrullaje y la búsqueda de indicios delictivos, en brechas localizadas en inmediaciones del río Bravo, los elementos castrenses detectaron escondrijos en lugares baldíos que estaban ocultos entre maleza seca y basura. 

El personal de la octava Zona Militar aseguró 17 fusiles de asalto conocidos como cuernos de chivo, dos fusiles Barret calibre .50, así como dos minas antipersonales.  Además, hallaron un aditamento lanzagranadas, una pistola calibre 38 especial, dos placas balísticas para chaleco, 55 cargadores y mil 458 cartuchos para fusil.

También se decomisaron cinco vehículos, una pipa cisterna, 45 dosis de polvo blanco con características de la cocaína, un radio de comunicación, 21 mil litros de hidrocarburo y tres personas fueron detenidas en flagrancia.

7 February 2018; Reynosa, Tamaulipas

 Source: SEDENA Photo [For Public Distribution]

Other Weaponry—including two .50 Cal Sniper Rifles—

seized along with the Claymore Anti-Personnel Mines

Source: SEDENA Photo [For Public Distribution]

Key Information: “Asegura Ejército armas, droga y 21 mil litros de huachicol.” El Mañana. 7 February 2018, https://www.elmanana.com/asegura-ejercito-armas-droga-21-mil-litros-huachicol-reynosa-armas-aseguradas-droga-huachicol-militares/4306481:

Reynosa, Tamaulipas, 7 de febrero 2018.- Personal de la Octava Zona Militar aseguró una gran cantidad de armas, cargadores, cartuchos y vehículos, así como dosis de polvo blanco con las características de cocaína y 21 mil litros de hidrocarburo en diversas acciones realizadas en brechas localizadas en las inmediaciones del río Bravo, en territorio de Tamaulipas.

Al intensificar durante las últimas 48 horas el patrullaje y la búsqueda de indicios delictivos, los elementos del Ejército Mexicano detectaron escondrijos en lugares baldíos que estaban ocultos entre maleza seca y basura. Tres personas fueron detenidas en flagrancia.

En todas las acciones se aseguraron 17 fusiles de asalto conocidos como Cuernos de Chivo, 2 fusiles Barret calibre .50; 2 minas anti personal, 1 aditamento lanza granadas, una pistola calibre 38 especial, 2 placas balísticas para chaleco, 55 cargadores y mil 458 cartuchos para fusil; 5 vehículos, una pipa cisterna, 45 dosis de polvo blanco con características de cocaína, un radio de comunicación y 21 mil litros de hidrocarburo.

7 February 2018; Reynosa, Tamaulipas

 Source: SEDENA Photo [For Public Distribution]

Key Information: “Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDS) in Mexico from 2009 to 2011.” Defense Intelligence Agency. CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN (FOIA; Freedom of Information Act—Title 5, Section 552): 17, www.dia.mil/FOIA/FOIA-Electronic-Reading-Room/FOIA...Mexico/.../110969/:

2. (U//FOUO) ON 10 SEPTEMBER 2009 IN APIZACO, TLAXCALA, MEXICAN FORCES RECOVERED AN UN-DETONATED IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE (IED) CONSISTING OF A CLAYMORE MINE, A VARTA LONGLIFE BATTERY, AND A SIMPLE MECHANICAL ALARM-CLOCK AS THE INITIATOR. THE MINE WAS TRACED BACK TO EL SALVADOR MILITARY STOCKS AS A U.S. FOREIGN MILITARY SALE (FMS) FROM THE 1980S. LA FAMILIA MICHOACANA INTENDED TO DETONATE THE MINE AT THE SEPTEMBER 2009 INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE IN APIZACO. **Following Sentence Not Released Per (b)(3):10 USC 424**

Key Information: David A. Kuhn and Robert J. Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note#10: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mine (and Other Military Hardware) Recovered in Zacatecas.” Small Wars Journal. 14 May 2012, http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/mexican-cartel-tactical-note-10:

Engagement between Mexican military personnel and traffickers who had a large amount of marijuana and military weapons and hardware in their possession.

The municipalities of Teul de González Ortega and Florencia de Benito Juárez in the state of Zacatecas. Military Region V and XI Military Zone.

January 26-27, 2012.

The photograph of the weaponry recovered and shown on the tarp is from La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA).

*Numbers were added during the writing of the tactical note for forensic analysis of the seized weaponry.

Teul de González Ortega and Florencia de Benito Juárez, Zacatecas; 26-27 January 2012

5. M18A1 Claymore Anti-personnel Mine (or exact foreign production copy)

6. M18A1 electrical wire (detonating) and storage reel

7. Firing Device, electric impulse, hand, M18A1 Claymore AP Mine

8. Electrical wire, supplemental, M18A1

Source: “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note#10.” Small Wars Journal

Who: Cartel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel)  (Alleged)

What: 2 Anti-personnel mines (Claymore M18A1) along with high caliber small arms (including 2 .50 caliber Barret rifles, 17 “Cuernos de Chivo” or AK-47s, grenade launchers, ammunition, 21,000 liters of stolen fuel (hydrocarbons) and tools for petroleum theft.

When: Wednesday, 7 February 2018, approx. 0600 hrs.

Where: Reynosa, Tamaulipas (proximate to the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo)

Why: Counter-narco interdiction by Mexican Army (Ejército Mexicano) (SEDENA)

Analysis

Alleged members of the Cartel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel) were interdicted near illegal petroleum taps (tomas clandestinas) proximate to the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo by Mexican Army (Ejército Mexicano) (SEDENA) personnel from the Eighth Military Zone (Octava Zona Militar).  The SEDENA enforcement operations augmented similar operations by the Federal Police (Policía Federal) and la Marina (SEMAR) supporting Fuerza Tamaulipas (Tamaulipas State Police) to combat cartel violence and fuel theft.  The state of Tamaulipas and the Reynosa plaza have been intensely contested in recent months and the area is considered a cartel battlefield (campo de guerra) characterized by gunfights, blockades (narcobloqueos), and explosions.[1]

In this incident, two Claymore Anti-personnel Mines were recovered in an underground weapons cache. Imagery of one of the mines clearly shows it to be a U.S. M18A1 mine (or exact foreign copy) along with accompanying electrical wire (detonating) and storage reel and a electric impulse hand-triggered firing device. This is not the first case where anti-personnel mines (minas antipersonales) have been discovered in the hands of Mexican criminal cartels. Table 1 describes three specific cases dating back to 2009.  Additional statistics regarding interdictions are contained in the following text. Thus far, all reported cases of cartel possession of anti-personnel mines have resulted in interdictions and seizures of the devices.

This incident (7 February 2018) also highlights the downside of hasty news analysis using popular terminology, as seen in a recent Breitbart Texas article related to it:

While the Gulf Cartel and other Mexican criminal organizations have used grenades and Russian-made RPGs in the past, this appears to be an early case of U.S. military-grade landmines near the border.[2]

Claymores are not traditional landmines—they are a command-detonated directional anti-personnel mines mounted vertically on stakes (not buried horizontally in the ground).[3] No land mines—anti-personnel or anti-vehicular—are known to have been utilized by or recovered from the cartels in Mexico. Nor is this an ‘early warning incident,’ given that open source reporting of an earlier cartel claymore incident took place 6 years ago in Zacatecas (or even 8½ years ago in Apizaco, based on newer information released by the DIA).[4] While some concern exists that the claymores in possession of the cartels were found just south of the U.S.-Mexico border, such military anti-personnel mines have also recently been found in a buried weapons cache in a far larger quantity on the U.S. side of the border in Pine, Arizona.[5]    

According to news reports citing the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR), Mexican authorities decommissioned 18 anti-personnel mines in the last days of the Calderón Sexenio ending in November 2012. The PGR determined that the majority of the antipersonnel mines they captured were M18A1 Claymore mines that were shipped to El Salvador during the 1980s and 90s. The devices were decommissioned from the hands of various criminal groups in Baja California, Tlaxcala, Chiapas, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Nayarit, Zacatecas, and Tabasco. Drug cartels are believed to have purchased these devices in El Salvador. Similar devices have also been used by guerillas, the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional), and criminal groups in Colombia.[6]

In addition, according to SIEDO data, between September 2014 and June 2015, 66 explosive artifacts or munitions were confiscated from cartels in Mexico. Various types of anti-personnel mines accounted for 23% of that total.[7] Anti-personnel mines have several potential applications by cartels. They can be used to protect personnel, safe houses, laboratories, and illicit shipments of drugs and stolen fuel from competitors and the police and military. They can also be used to enhance the effectiveness of narcobloqueos (blockades) and protect the sites of illicit fuel taps (tomas clandestinas) and be deployed offensively to create “killing ground” in which to ambush Mexican federal police and military personnel. Concerning the deadly potentials of these devices:

The M18A1 “Claymore” Anti-personnel Mine carries an explosive weight of 682-grams (1.50-lbs. of Composition C-4).  It will deliver steel fragments over a 60° fan-shaped pattern that is 50-meters wide and 2-meters in height, and is effective up to a range of 100-meters.  These blast fragments are still dangerous up to 250-meters forward of the mine.[8]

The proliferation of anti-personnel mines into the hands of drug cartels and gangs has disturbing potentials. While anti-personnel mines are not unknown in non-international armed conflict settings, having been used by FARC and ELN guerillas in Colombia for example, their increasing presence in Mexico can potentially lead to their actual field use, ratcheting up the already high levels of casualties and violence taking place. The proliferation of anti-personnel mines from guerrillas to BACRIM (bandas criminals emergentes) in Colombia has already been noted.[9] In addition, Brazilian gangs and Colombian BACRIM have been recruiting demobilized FARC commandos; it would not be a surprise if they bring TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) involving use of anti-personnel mines with them in the future.[10]

Significance: Ambushes, Booby Traps, Cartel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel), Cartel Weaponry, Foreign Arms Transfers, La Familia Michoacana, M18A1 Claymore Antipersonnel Mine (AP Mine), Minas Antipersonales

End Notes

[1] “Reynosa es un campo de guerra: reportan balaceras, bloqueos, persecuciones, detonaciones…” Sin Embargo. 7 February 2018, http://www.sinembargo.mx/07-02-2018/3382698.

[2] Ildefonso Ortiz and Brandon Darby, “Photos: Landmines Discovered in Gulf Cartel’s Possession in Mexican Border City.” Breitbart Texas. 8 February 2018, http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2018/02/08/photos-landmines-discovered-gulf-cartels-possession-mexican-border-city/.

[3] The distinction between command-detonated and vehicle-detonated devices as opposed to ‘victim-activated’ explosive devices has important consequences under the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines (The Ottawa Convention or Mine Ban Treaty).  The convention bans anti-personnel ‘victim-activated’ explosive devices but does not ban anti-vehicle and anti-tank mines and it does not ban explosive devices that are remotely controlled (command-detonated).  A Claymore-type mine would only be prohibited if it were victim-activated (e.g., activated by a trip wire). Mexico is a state party to the Ottawa Convention.  The Ottawa Convention entered into force on 1 March 1999.  See “Overview of the Convention on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines.” International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 15 August 2007; https://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/legal-fact-sheet/landmines-factsheet-150807.htm.

[4] See David A. Kuhn and Robert J. Bunker. “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #10: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mine (and Other Military Hardware) Recovered in Zacatecas.” Small Wars Journal. 14 May 2012, http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/mexican-cartel-tactical-note-10 and the following declassified report: “Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDS) in Mexico from 2009 to 2011.” Defense Intelligence Agency. CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN (FOIA; Freedom of Information Act—Title 5, Section 552): 17, www.dia.mil/FOIA/FOIA-Electronic-Reading-Room/FOIA...Mexico/.../110969/.

[5] Nine Claymores and eighty blocks of C-4 explosives were recovered—speculation exists that they may have been buried on the property for twenty years. ABC15 Arizona, “Military explosives found in Pine.” YouTube. 4 January 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=56&v=mcauuSyiYHg.

[6] “Durante la Guerra contra el narcotráfico, cartels mexicanos compraron 18 minas a El Salvador, asegura la PGR.” Emeesquis. 26 April 2014, http://www.m-x.com.mx/2014-04-26/durante-la-guerra-contra-en-narcotrafico-carteles-mexicanos-compraron-18-minas-a-el-salvador-asegura-la-pgr/ and Silvia Otero. “Decomisan a narco minas antipersona.” 26 April 2014, http://archivo.eluniversal.com.mx/nacion-mexico/2014/decomisan-a-narco-minas-antipersona-1006167.html.

[7] SIEDO (Subprocuraduría Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada) found that 23% of the explosive munitions were anti-personnel mines, 29% were ammunition for grenade launchers, and 32% were fragmentation grenades. The states of Tamaulipas, Guerreo, and Jalisco accounted for 60% of the arms decommissioned from narcos.  Reported in Animal Político, “Tamaulipas de los más armados del país.” El Mañana. 18 October 2015, https://www.elmanana.com/tamaulipas-armados-del-pais-armas-tamaulipas-grupos-delictivos-seido/3064585.

[8] David A. Kuhn and Robert J. Bunker. “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #10: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mine (and Other Military Hardware) Recovered in Zacatecas.” Small Wars Journal. 14 May 2012, http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/mexican-cartel-tactical-note-10.

[9] “Las Bacrim están instalando minas antipersonales.” Semana. 14 April 2017, http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/minas-antipersonal-en-colombia-centro-nacional-de-memoria-historica/523088.

[10] John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 3: Brazilian Gangs and Colombian BACRIM Recruit Demobilized FARC Commandos.” Small Wars Journal. 16 May 2017, http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/third-generation-gangs-strategic-note-no-3-brazilian-gangs-and-colombian-bacrim-recruit-dem.

Sources

“Asegura Ejército armas, droga y 21 mil litros de huachicol.” El Mañana. 7 February 2018, https://www.elmanana.com/asegura-ejercito-armas-droga-21-mil-litros-huachicol-reynosa-armas-aseguradas-droga-huachicol-militares/4306481.

Decomisan dos minas antipersonales en Tamaulipas.” El Heraldo de México. 7 February 2018, https://heraldodemexico.com.mx/estados/tamaulipas-decomisan-dos-minas-antipersonales/.

“Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDS) in Mexico from 2009 to 2011.” Defense Intelligence Agency. CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN (FOIA; Freedom of Information Act—Title 5, Section 552): 17, www.dia.mil/FOIA/FOIA-Electronic-Reading-Room/FOIA...Mexico/.../110969/.

David A. Kuhn and Robert J. Bunker, “Just where do Mexican cartel weapons come from?” (Special Issue: Criminal Insurgencies in Mexico and the Americas: The Gangs and Cartels Wage War.) Small Wars & Insurgencies. Vol. 22., No. 5, 2011: 807-834.

For Additional Reading

David A. Kuhn and Robert J. Bunker, “Just where do Mexican cartel weapons come from?” (Special Issue: Criminal Insurgencies in Mexico and the Americas: The Gangs and Cartels Wage War.) Small Wars & Insurgencies. Vol. 22., No. 5, 2011: 807-834.

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, Cartel Car Bombings in Mexico. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, August 2013: 1-73.

About the Author(s)

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is an Adjunct Research Professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College and Adjunct Faculty, Division of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate University. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Distinguished Visiting Professor and Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico, VA; Staff Member (Consultant), Counter-OPFOR Program, National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center-West; and Adjunct Faculty, National Security Studies M.A. Program and Political Science Department, California State University, San Bernardino, CA. Dr. Bunker has hundreds of publications including Studies in Gangs and Cartels, with John Sullivan (Routledge, 2013),  Red Teams and Counterterrorism Training, with Stephen Sloan (University of Oklahoma, 2011), and edited works, including Global Criminal and Sovereign Free Economies and the Demise of the Western Democracies: Dark Renaissance (Routledge, 2014), co-edited with Pamela Ligouri Bunker; Criminal Insurgencies in Mexico and the Americas: The Gangs and Cartels Wage War (Routledge, 2012); Narcos Over the Border: Gangs, Cartels and Mercenaries (Routledge, 2011); Criminal-States and Criminal-Soldiers (Routledge, 2008); Networks, Terrorism and Global Insurgency (Routledge, 2005); and Non-State Threats and Future Wars (Routledge, 2002).

John P. Sullivan is a career police officer. He currently serves as a lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He is also an adjunct researcher at the Vortex Foundation in Bogotá, Colombia; a senior research fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism (CAST); and a senior fellow at Small Wars Journal-El Centro. He is co-editor of Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network (Routledge, 2006) and Global Biosecurity: Threats and Responses (Routledge, 2010) and co-author of Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency: A Small Wars Journal-El Centro Anthology (iUniverse, 2011) and Studies in Gangs and Cartels (Routledge, 2013). He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government form the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD, doctorate in Information and Knowledge Society, from the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) at the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) in Barcelona. His doctoral thesis was ‘Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” His current research focus is the impact of transnational organized crime on sovereignty in Mexico and other countries.