Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 34: Anti-Vehicle Mine Targeting SEDENA Convoy between Tepalcatepec and Aguililla, Michoacán

Wed, 02/16/2022 - 3:05pm

Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 34: Anti-Vehicle Mine Targeting SEDENA Convoy between Tepalcatepec and Aguililla, Michoacán

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker

On Monday, 31 January 2022 at approximately 1030 hours (10:30 am) a Mexican Army (SEDENA) convoy travelling on a dirt road in a remote area near Apatzingán drove over a landmine. The vehicle was reportedly a ‘SandCat’ light armored vehicle (LAV). At least one, and up to four or more soldiers were said to be injured. The area where the incident occurred is reportedly in territory contested by the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and the Cárteles Unidos (CU).

Sedena IAFV Attack

Ejército Mexicano (Mexican Army) Vehicle Involved in Mine Attack. Source: SEDENA

Key Information: Miguel García, “Mina explota durante paso de convoy militar en Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.Excelsior. 31 January 2022, https://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/mina-explota-durante-paso-de-convoy-militar-en-tepalcatepec-michoacan/1495985:

Un camión blindado propiedad de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena) fue blanco de una mina explosiva, cuando un convoy militar patrullaba en brechas que comunican a Tepalcatepec con Aguililla, Michoacán.

Según fuentes oficiales, el conductor del vehículo militar está muy grave a consecuencia del estallido.

De acuerdo con información generada en la 43 Zona Militar con sede en Apatzingán, a la cual Grupo Imagen tuvo acceso, la explosión ocurrió cerca de las 10:30 horas en un camino cercano a Loma Blanca, una comunidad ubicada muy cerca de los límites entre Tepalcatepec y Aguililla…

… Según fuentes oficiales, este incidente ocurrió muy cerca de donde, el domingo, fuerzas federales fueron atacados por un grupo armado; al repeler la agresión los soldados sometieron a 9 presuntos integrantes de la delincuencia organizada, a quienes les decomisaron 9 armas largas y dos vehículos blindados, uno de los cuales ostentaba la siglas de un Cártel asentado en Jalisco.[1]

Key Information: “VIDEO | Explota mina a convoy militar en Tierra Caliente; hay al menos un soldado herido.” La Voz de Michoacán. 31 January 2022, https://www.lavozdemichoacan.com.mx/seguridad/video-explota-mina-a-convoy-militar-en-tierra-caliente-hay-al-menos-un-soldado-herido/:

Apatzingán, Michoacán. La mañana de este lunes, un convoy militar realizaba recorridos de reconocimiento en una brecha de la región de Tierra Caliente, cuando en un momento determinado un explosivo tipo mina detonó debajo de un vehículo tipo Sand Cat, generando heridas de gravedad al menos a uno de los elementos.

Sobre el caso ha trascendido que los oficiales recorrían caminos agrestes en la periferia de Apatzingán, cuando el artefacto que previamente habría sido colocado por criminales, explotó al paso de las unidades blindadas.

Un vehículo Sand Cat resultó severamente dañado tras el estallido y en su interior un elemento quedó con lesiones de consideración, por lo que sus compañeros de armas de inmediato lo trasladaron a la 43 Zona Militar para su adecuada atención Médica.[2]

Key Information: “Presuntos sicarios atacan con mina terrestre a Ejército en oeste de México.” Efe via Los Angeles Times. 31 January 2022, https://www.latimes.com/espanol/mexico/articulo/2022-01-31/presuntos-sicarios-atacan-con-mina-terrestre-a-ejercito-en-oeste-de-mexico:

Presuntos sicarios al servicio del narcotráfico atacaron este lunes con una mina terrestre un convoy del Ejército Mexicano, en la región de Tierra Caliente, en el estado de Michoacán, oeste del país, una de las zonas más convulsivas del país.

La XLIII Zona Militar, con sede en el municipio de Apatzingán –la principal población de la Tierra Caliente-, informó que la explosión ocurrió la mañana de estee lunes en un camino de terracería ubicada entre los municipios de Aguililla, Tepalcatepec y Coalcomán.

La mina detonó al paso de un vehículo táctico blindado y artillado, de manufactura mexicana y utilizado por el Ejército en operaciones de inteligencia y contra el crimen organizado, principalmente, para la captura de narcotraficantes.

La explosión provocó severos daños en la estructura del automotor y dejó heridos a cuatro soldados, uno de ellos de gravedad.[3]

Key Information: “La violencia del narcotráfico, sin freno en el estado mexicano de Michoacán.” Efe via Los Angeles Times. 7 February 2022, https://www.latimes.com/espanol/mexico/articulo/2022-02-07/la-violencia-del-narcotrafico-sin-freno-en-el-estado-mexicano-de-michoacan:

[L]a Fiscalía General de la República (FGR) investiga el uso y explosión, por primera vez en la historia del país, de una mina terrestre contra el Ejército Mexicano en la llamada Tierra Caliente de Michoacán, una zona de diez municipios que desde los años 80 han usado los narcos para producir drogas como marihuana, metanfetamina, heroína, fentanilo y, recientemente, cocaína.

La mina, de uso militar, estalló en un camino de terracería que conecta los municipios de Apatzingán y Tepalcatepec, dejando seis soldados heridos y graves daños en un vehículo militar blindado, tipo “sandcat” y de manufactura mexicana.[4]

Key Information: “Siguen los enfrentamientos entre el CJNG y el Ejército en Michoacán.” Jalisco Rojo. 2 February 2022, https://jaliscorojo.com/2022/02/02/siguen-los-enfrentamientos-entre-el-cjng-y-el-ejercito-en-michoacan/:

Una docena de soldados heridos y 15 detenidos han dejado los enfrentamientos de los últimos días en el municipio de Tepalcatepec en Michoacán.

Fuerzas federales avanzan para retomar el control de comunidades de la zona y se encuentran con grupos armados al parecer del CJNG.

Además de drones artillados, los carteles ahora usan minas explosivas enterradas en los caminos para frenar a los rivales y autoridades y este lunes un vehículo sandcat del ejército sufrió daños y dejó lesiones a los uniformados al pasar por estos explosivos en un camino entre las comunidades de El Bejuco y Los Horcones.

Las acciones continúan en la región.[5]

Analysis

This incident involves the use of an anti-vehicle landmine directed against a Mexican military convoy. The incident resulted in damage to an Army LAV, causing in injuries. The direct attack against state forces has strategic significance. The exact details of the targeting remain under investigation, with the detonation method undisclosed. It is also unknown if the Ejército Mexicano (Mexican Army) convoy was explicitly targeted or whether the target was one of the competing cartels contesting the proximate region. It is clear, however, that the Cárteles Unidos (CU) did target a Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG vehicle) in early January 2021.[6] In addition, another indications and warning (I&W) event concerning cartel landmine (improvised anti-vehicle mine – IAVM) deployment was identified as taking place in October 2021. Both of these I&W events involved CU and CJNG.[7]

The use of anti-vehicle landmines against state forces (in this case, the Army—a component of the Secretaría de Defensa Nacional or SEDENA) is significant. While Mexican criminal armed groups (CAGs) have possessed anti-personnel mines for years, the targeting of state forces with improvised anti-vehicle mines yielding injuries to military personnel raised the stature of this incident to one of strategic importance.[8][9]

In the aftermath of this incident, Mexican security forces, including SEDENA, Guardia Nacional (GN), Policia Michoacán (Michoacán Police), and agents of the Fiscalía General del Estado (Michoacán state prosecutor), conducted saturation patrols in the contested areas of the “Tierra Caliente” to reinforce the rule of law and restore social peace.[10] In related operations, a day prior to the landmine incident, SEDENA detained 15 suspected CJNG members after the government forces were attacked—in four instances—with artisanal armored vehicles, explosives, sticks, and stones.[11] These incidents (as well as similar CJNG attacks of government forces in recent month) demonstrated direct and sustained confrontation by the CJNG and the Government of Mexico (GoM).[12][13]

This attack utilizing landmines (IAVMs) forms a notable data point in Mexico’s on-going criminal insurgencies. Further tactical innovation and maturation of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) along with technical means can be expected. The CAGs participating in the crime wars in Michoacán (and other parts of Mexico) are engaged in sustained, protracted conflict. In several cases, this situation has reached a level of intensity and is conducted by groups with the requisite organizational capacity to exercise effective command and control. These are needed to categorize these situations as non-international armed conflict (NIACs). The existence of situations where CAGs exercise territorial control and directly confront the state necessitates a discussion of the legal, and policy considerations needed to address the tactical, operational, and strategic implications of this reality.[14][15]

Sources

Miguel García, “Mina explota durante paso de convoy militar en Tepalcatepec, Michoacán. Excelsior. 31 January 2022, https://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/mina-explota-durante-paso-de-convoy-militar-en-tepalcatepec-michoacan/1495985.

“Presuntos sicarios atacan con mina terrestre a Ejército en oeste de México.” Efe via Los Angeles Times. 31 January 2022, https://www.latimes.com/espanol/mexico/articulo/2022-01-31/presuntos-sicarios-atacan-con-mina-terrestre-a-ejercito-en-oeste-de-mexico.

“Siguen los enfrentamientos entre el CJNG y el Ejército en Michoacán.” Jalisco Rojo. 2 February 2022, https://jaliscorojo.com/2022/02/02/siguen-los-enfrentamientos-entre-el-cjng-y-el-ejercito-en-michoacan/.

VIDEO | Explota mina a convoy militar en Tierra Caliente; hay al menos un soldado herido.” La Voz de Michoacán. 31 January 2022, https://www.lavozdemichoacan.com.mx/seguridad/video-explota-mina-a-convoy-militar-en-tierra-caliente-hay-al-menos-un-soldado-herido/.

“La violencia del narcotráfico, sin freno en el estado mexicano de Michoacán.” Efe via Los Angeles Times. 7 February 2022, https://www.latimes.com/espanol/mexico/articulo/2022-02-07/la-violencia-del-narcotrafico-sin-freno-en-el-estado-mexicano-de-michoacan.

Endnotes

[1] In English, the title reads: “Mine explodes during passage of military convoy in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.” The text reads: “An armored truck belonging to the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) was the target of an explosive mine when a military convoy was patrolling on the roads that connect Tepalcatepec with Aguililla, Michoacán. […] According to official sources, the driver of the military vehicle is in serious condition as a result of the explosion. […] According to information generated by the 43rd Military Zone based in Apatzingán, to which Grupo Imagen had access, the explosion occurred around 1030 hours on a road near Loma Blanca, a community located very close to the border between Tepalcatepec and Aguililla […] According to official sources, this incident occurred very close to where, on Sunday, federal forces were attacked by an armed group; in repelling the aggression, the soldiers subdued 9 alleged members of organized crime, from whom they seized 9 long arms and two armored vehicles, one of which bore the initials of a cartel based in Jalisco.

[2] In English, the title reads: “VIDEO | Mine explodes at military convoy in Tierra Caliente; at least one soldier injured.” The text reads: “Apatzingán, Michoacán. On Monday morning, a military convoy was conducting reconnaissance patrols in a breach in the Tierra Caliente region, when at a certain moment a mine-type explosive detonated under a SandCat vehicle, causing serious injuries to at least one of the soldiers. […] It has been reported that the officers were traveling through rough roads on the outskirts of Apatzingán, when the device, which had been previously placed by criminals, exploded as the armored vehicles passed by. […] A SandCat vehicle was severely damaged after the explosion and an officer inside was left with serious injuries, for which his comrades in arms immediately transferred him to the 43rd Military Zone for proper medical attention.

[3] In English, the title reads: “Suspected gunmen attack Army with land mine in western Mexico.” The text reads: “Suspected drug traffickers attacked a Mexican Army convoy with a landmine on Monday in the Tierra Caliente region, in the western state of Michoacán, one of the most convulsive areas of the country. […] The XLIII Military Zone, based in the municipality of Apatzingán—the main town in Tierra Caliente—reported that the explosion occurred on Monday morning on a dirt road located between the municipalities of Aguililla, Tepalcatepec and Coalcomán. […] The mine detonated as a Mexican-made armored and artillery tactical vehicle used by the Army in intelligence operations and against organized crime, mainly for the capture of drug traffickers, was passing by. […] The explosion caused severe damage to the structure of the vehicle and left four soldiers injured, one of them seriously.”

[4] In English, the title reads: “Drug violence unchecked in the Mexican state of Michoacán.” The text reads: “[T]he Attorney General's Office (FGR) is investigating the use and explosion, for the first time in the country's history, of a landmine against the Mexican Army in the so-called Tierra Caliente of Michoacán, an area of ten municipalities that since the 1980s has been used by drug traffickers to produce drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl and, recently, cocaine. […]  The mine, for military use, exploded on a dirt road connecting the municipalities of Apatzingán and Tepalcatepec, leaving six soldiers wounded and serious damage to a Mexican-made ‘SandCat’ armored military vehicle”

[5] In English, the title reads: Clashes continue between the CJNG and the Army in Michoacán.” The text reads, “A dozen soldiers have been wounded and 15 detained in clashes in recent days in the municipality of Tepalcatepec in Michoacán. […] Federal forces advance to retake control of communities in the area and encounter armed groups apparently belonging to the CJNG. […] In addition to drone gunships, the cartels are now using explosive mines buried in the roads to stop rivals and authorities, and on Monday an army SandCat vehicle was damaged and uniformed personnel injured when passing through these explosives on a road between the communities of El Bejuco and Los Horcones. […] Actions continue in the region.”

[6] The attack by the Cárteles Unidos directed against a CJNG armored vehicle occurred on 2 January 2022. See “VIDEO: Explota con mina camión blindado del CJNG, sicarios del Mencho así cayeron en trampa [VIDEO: CJNG's armored truck explodes with mine, Mencho's hired killers fall into trap].” La Opinión.3 January 2022, https://laopinion.com/2021/01/03/video-explota-con-mina-camion-blindado-del-cjng-sicarios-del-mencho-asi-cayeron-en-trampa/.

[7] See Robert J. Bunker, “Improvised Anti-Vehicle Mine (IAVM) I&W in Mexico. C/O Futures Cartel Research Note Series. 14 October 2021, https://www.cofutures.net/post/improvised-anti-vehicle-mine-iavm-i-w-in-mexico.

[8] We are presently working on the assumption that the explosive device utilized is improvised and not a dedicated military grade landmine due to trending and publicly available indicators.

[9] This was noted in our 21 February 2018 tactical note. Specifically, the declassified report cited in our note stated that “on September 2009 in Apizaco, Tlaxcala, Mexican forces recovered an un-detonated improvised explosive device containing a Claymore mine.” See Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #36: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mines (Minas Antipersonales) Recovered in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.” Small Wars Journal. 21 February 2018, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/mexican-cartel-tactical-note-36-claymore-anti-personnel-mines-minas-antipersonales.

[10] Guillermo Espinosa, “Tras agresión con explosivos Sedena detuvo a presuntos integrantes del CJNG en Michoacán.” Capital. 12 February 2022, https://www.capitalmexico.com.mx/politica/tras-agresion-con-explosivos-sedena-detuvo-a-presuntos-integrantes-del-cjng-en-michoacan/.

[11] “Sedena detiene a presuntos integrantes del CJNG tras un ataque con explosivos, palos y piedras en Tepalcatepec [Sedena detains suspected CJNG members after attack with explosives, sticks and stones in Tepalcatepec].” Proceso. 30 January 2022, https://www.proceso.com.mx/nacional/estados/2022/1/30/sedena-detiene-presuntos-integrantes-del-cjng-tras-un-ataque-con-explosivos-palos-piedras-en-tepalcatepec-280055.html.

[12] See, for example, “Se enfrentan soldados y sicarios del CJNG en Tepalcatepec; hay 6 militares heridos [Soldiers and CJNG assassins clash in Tepalcatepec; 6 soldiers wounded].” Proceso. 9 November 2022, https://www.proceso.com.mx/nacional/estados/2021/11/9/se-enfrentan-soldados-sicarios-del-cjng-en-tepalcatepec-hay-militares-heridos-275544.html.

[13] These stability and support/pacification missions continue.  By 9 February 2020, the Mexican Army infantry and special forces together with the GN, and Policía Michoacán conducted operations in 43 named locations in Michoacán’s Tierra Caliente region. See “Ejército Mexicano fortalece el estado de derecho en 43 localidades de Michoacán [Mexican Army strengthens rule of law in 43 locations in Michoacán].” Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA). Comunicado [Press Release]. 9 February 2022, https://www.gob.mx/sedena/prensa/ejercito-mexicano-fortalece-el-estado-de-derecho-en-43-localidades-de-michoacan.

[14] In 2019, the Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) initiative at the Geneva Academy concluded that that Mexico and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), were parties to a non-international armed conflict (NIAC). Currently, RULAC considers that the “The Government of Mexico is involved in two parallel non-international armed conflicts against at least the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG, Jalisco Cartel New Generation) and the Sinaloa Cartel. Furthermore, violence between the Sinaloa Cartel and the CJNG amounts to a non-international armed conflict.” See “Non-International Armed Conflicts in Mexico.” Geneva: Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC). 30 May 2021, http://www.rulac.org/browse/conflicts/non-international-armed-conflict-in-mexico.

[15] For additional discussion, see John P. Sullivan, “Non-International Armed Conflict: Mexico and Colombia.” Revista do Ministério Público Militar (Brazil). Vol. XLVI, no. 35. November 2021: pp. 467–578, https://www.academia.edu/62379204/Non_International_Armed_Conflict_Mexico_and_Colombia.

Key Words: Anti-Personnel Mines, Artisanal Mines (Minas artesanales), Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), Cártels Unidos (CU), Improvised Anti-Vehicle Mine (IAVM), Landmines

Additional Reading

Robert J. Bunker, “Improvised Anti-Vehicle Mine (IAVM) I&W in Mexico. C/O Futures Cartel Research Note Series. 14 October 2021.

Nathan P. Jones, “The Strategic Implications of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación.” Journal of Strategic Security. Vol 11, No. 1, 2018, pp. 19-42.

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.  

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #36: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mines (Minas Antipersonales) Recovered in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.” Small Wars Journal, 21 February 2018.

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 17: Antipersonnel Landmine Use and Fabrication by the Clan del Golfo in Colombia.” Small Wars Journal. 14 June 2019.

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Dr. John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He is an honorably retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, specializing in emergency operations, transit policing, counterterrorism, and intelligence. He is currently an Instructor in the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California. Sullivan received a lifetime achievement award from the National Fusion Center Association in November 2018 for his contributions to the national network of intelligence fusion centers. He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from 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 from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). His doctoral thesis was “Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” He can be reached at jpsullivan@smallwarsjournal.com.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an Instructor at the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. 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 Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. Dr. Bunker has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at docbunker@smallwarsjournal.com.   
 

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