Small Wars Journal

Tactical Note

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #10

Mon, 05/14/2012 - 5:37am

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #10

by David A. Kuhn and Robert J. Bunker

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #10: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mine (and Other Military Hardware) Recovered in Zacatecas

Note—The key information has not been translated into English. It is being provided below as raw Spanish language OSINT for context/to allow for more in depth future analysis due to the significance of the Claymore anti-personnel mine that was recovered. We wish to thank Chris Covert for alerting us to this weapons recovery incident.

Key Information: Personal militar repele agresión armada, asegura droga y armamento en diferentes municipios del estado de Zacatecas. Guadalupe, Zac., a 28 de enero del 2012. Guadalupe, Zac., a 28 de enero del 2012. http://www.sedena.gob.mx/index.php/sala-de-prensa/comunicados-de-prensa-de-los-mandos-territoriales/8389-28-de-enero-del-2012-guadalupe-zac:

Hay cinco personas detenidas.

La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, a través de las Comandancias de la V Región Militar y 11/a. Zona Militar, informa a la opinión pública que en el marco de la Estrategia Integral del Estado Mexicano en contra del Narcotráfico y Delincuencia Organizada, los días 26 y 27 de enero del presente año, personal militar jurisdiccionado a este mando territorial, en atención a una denuncia ciudadana efectuaron reconocimientos terrestres en los municipios de Teul de González Ortega, y Florencia de Benito Juárez, Zac., donde fueron agredidos con disparos de armas de fuego por un número indeterminado de personas, por lo que en defensa de su integridad física y de la población civil, los efectivos militares repelieron la agresión, falleciendo en el lugar de los hechos tres agresores y logrando la detención de cinco individuos más; realizando los siguientes aseguramientos.:

    * 181 kilos con 400 gramos de mariguana.

    * 6 armas largas.

    * 1 arma corta.

    * 122 cargadores para diversas armas.

    * 1,052 cartuchos de diferentes calibres.

    * 1 mina antipersonal.

    * 2 granadas de mano.

    * Equipo táctico diverso.

    * 5 vehículos asegurados (3 con reporte de robo).

Con acciones como esta, La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, ratifica su compromiso de continuar combatiendo frontalmente al narcotráfico y crimen organizado, con el objeto de devolver la seguridad y paz social que demanda el pueblo de México, invitando a la sociedad a denunciar cualquier actividad ilícita que observe, al número telefónico lada sin costo 01800 507 6081 y correo electrónico denuncia.11zm@mail.sedena.gob.mxEsta dirección electrónica esta protegida contra spam bots. Necesita activar 

Ver más comunicados.

Blvd. Manuel Ávila Camacho S/N. Esq. Av. Ind. Mil., Col. Lomas de Sotelo; Deleg. Miguel Hidalgo, D.F. C.P. 11640 Tel. 21228800. Comentarios sobre este Sitio de Internet Comentarios y Sugerencias sobre éste sitio de Internet.

Key Information: Decomisa Sedena, mina antipersonal en Zacatecas (Teúl y Florencia). Escrito por El Eco del Cañón on ene 29th, 2012 y presentadas en Regionales, Teúl, Zacatecas. Puedes seguir cualquier respuesta a esta entrada a traves de la RSS 2.0. Ambos comentarios y pings estan actualmente cerrados. http://www.elecodetlaltenango.com/?p=6940:

Guadalupe, Zac.- La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena), informó que tras sendos enfrentamientos en Teúl de González Ortega y Florencia de Benito Juárez, en el que fallecieron tres sicarios y cinco más fueron detenidos, se decomisó la primera mina personal en la entidad.

En comunicado de prensa, la Sedena informó que los días 26 y 27 de enero del presente año, personal militar jurisdiccionado a las Comandancias de la V Región Militar y XI Zona Militar, fueron agredidos con disparos de armas de fuego por un número indeterminado de personas.

Así, en respuesta y defensa de su integridad física y de la población civil, los efectivos militares repelieron la agresión, falleciendo en el lugar de los hechos tres agresores y logrando la detención de cinco individuos.

En el operativo posterior se decomisaron 181 kilos con 400 gramos de mariguana; seis armas largas; un arma corta; 122 cargadores para diversas armas y mil 52 cartuchos de diferentes calibres.

También una mina antipersonal, dos granadas de mano, equipo táctico diverso y cinco vehículos asegurados tres con reporte de robo).

Who: Narcotics (marijuana) traffickers in Zacatecas.

What: Engagement between Mexican military personnel and traffickers who had a large amount of marijuana and military weapons and hardware in their possession. 3 traffickers were killed and 5 were arrested. No military casualties reported.

When:  January 26-27, 2012.

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

Why: Defensive action by deployed Mexican military forces against criminal (narco) insurgent forces.

Photo Analysis: The photograph of the weaponry recovered and shown on the tarp is from La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA). The weapons and other military hardware have been labeled from 1 to 10 and are as follows:

Cartel Weapons / Explosives on Tarp

(SEDENA/For Public Distribution)

  1. Ammunition, .30 cal., exact cartridge type unknown.
  2. AK-47 action; set into a polymer stock (folding).
  3. M-26A1 Hand grenade, delay fragmentation.
  4. 40mm HE or HEDP, Spin-stabilized (model not identifiable).
  5. M18A1 Claymore Anti-personnel Mine (or exact foreign production copy). [See note].
  6. M18A1 electrical wire (detonating) and storage reel.
  7. Firing Device, electric impulse, hand, M18A1 Claymore AP Mine.
  8. Electrical wire, supplemental, M18A1.
  9. Magazines, 7.62 x 39mm, 30-round capacity; Magazine count:  53; Total rounds:  1,590 rnds. (Note the magazine on the extreme left.  It appears to have sustained gunfire damage.)

   10)   The area identified as “10” appears to be improvised body armor sets totaling three in number.

The body armor appears to be of carbon steel alloy, and constructed using professional fabrication techniques and machinery.  It appears to be constructed of at least 4-gage (.204-inch) sheet steel or greater.  There may be additional ceramic plate armor and padding on the interior of the armor that is out of view.

Note:

M18A1 Claymore AP Mine [Item No. 5]: The U.S. M18A1 Claymore Anti-personnel Mine is widely copied by a number of countries; however, there are only a few that can be considered “exact,” or “close” copies for the purposes of general appearance.  Two examples of these would be the South African Shrapnel Mine No. 2 and the Chinese Type 66 (the Type 66 does not have “FRONT TOWARD ENEMY” in raised lettering across the face of the mine that appears on the standard M18A1).  The mine shown face down in the photograph could, in fact, be one of these close foreign copies.

Items #5-8 composing the Claymore Anti-personnel Mine system is a significant weapons recovery. Earlier reports of such mines being in the inventory of cartel enforcers and traffickers have been made but no photographic evidence has been provided. The effects of such a mine can be viewed at: M18A1 Claymore Directional AP Mine, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDqaeMGMAWk.

The M18A1 Claymore: These mines can be effectively used in ambushes and booby traps against dismounted Mexican military and law enforcement personnel.  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.  Their fielding and use in tandem with low yield car bombs (VBIEDs) and/or hasty assaults to create kill zones in to which military and federal police small units are forced/drawn and channeled into must now be considered.  Additionally, terrorists favor mines such as these as they often contain additional fuze wells (for blasting cap detonators) that will allow the mine to be detonated as a boobytrap device in a variety of scenarios that are well outside of a conventional battlefield environment.  The M18A1 Claymore is equipped with two separate fuze wells.

Significance: Ambushes, Booby Traps, Cartel Weaponry

Tags: El Centro, Mexican Cartel Note, Tactical Note

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #9

Fri, 01/20/2012 - 9:50am

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #9: Decapitated Adult Male with Hands and Feet Removed:

Found on Side of a Dirt Road Near Marana (Pima County) Arizona

Key Information:

Via Veronica M. Cruz, “Decapitated body found near Tucson Mountains.” Arizona Daily Star. Saturday 7 January 2012:

A man’s decapitated body was found on the side of a dirt road Friday morning west of the Tucson Mountains.

The hands and feet also had also been removed from the body discovered in the 2300 block of North Reservation Road and West Mile Wide Road. None of the missing body parts were found at the scene, Pima County sheriff’s Bureau Chief Rick Kastigar said.

The body was discovered by two men cutting grass along the road to feed their animals, he said.

The men flagged down Bureau of Land Management Rangers and border patrol agents in the area, but were released before deputies could question them, Kastigar said.

“We don’t know who they are or where they came from,” Kastigar said of pair who reported the discovery. “We don’t know their association to the crime.”

Other evidence was found at the scene but Kastigar could not provide details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Kastigar said that neither he nor the department’s veteran investigators have dealt with a case like this before.

“I can tell you that the crime of murder is not necessarily new to that part of the county,” Kastigar said. Homicide victims have been found in the remote area.

An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Sheriff’s deputies are asking for anyone with information to call to call 911 or 88-CRIME (882-7463) [1].

See Kvoa.com (Ch 4 News Tucson, AZ) 1:23 minute video at http://www.kvoa.com/videos/body-found-near-marana-was-decapitated-sheriffs-say/.

For information on this incident and on other Mexican cartel beheadings in the US see Krgv.com (Ch 5 News Rio Grande Valley, TX) 1:45 minute video at http://www.krgv.com/news/expert-says-beheadings-in-u-s-look-like-work-of-cartels/.

Who: Unknown adult male. Ethnicity and/or distinguishing features not provided.

What: Beheading and partial dismemberment; hands and feet removed.

When: Estimates are that the body was not at the location more than 24 hours which would place the body dump on roughly  Thursday 5 January 2012 [3].

Where: On the side of a dirt road near Marana (Pima County) Arizona— 2300 block of North Reservation Road and West Mile Wide Road [2]. This is a rural area North-West of Tucson with the interstate I-10, linking Phoenix and Tucson, about 15 miles to the East.

Why: The working assumption is that this is Mexican cartel related [4], though the homicide is still under investigation. The lead investigative agency is the Pima County Sheriff’s Office.  

Tactical Analysis: The beheading and partial dismemberment of the adult male has all the trademarks of a Mexican cartel killing although this homicide will likely never be solved in the near term [5]. No mention of tattoos on the body or personal items have been made in the news reports which would help to identify potential cartel and gang linkages. None of the victim’s removed body parts have been located [1] and investigating detectives said that the body also suffered other obvious signs of trauma [2]. Lack of the head and other body parts at the body dump scene (potential crime scene unlikely) indicate that the perpetrators did not want the victim identified. The mention of ‘obvious signs of trauma’ is assumed to mean physical abuse and/or blunt force or penetrating trauma [eg. bladed weapon or gunshot(s)]. It is noted that the body was dumped by the side of a dirt road. The body could have instead been buried in a shallow grave further away from the road which could mean (a). The perpetrators wanted the body found (possibly as a warning to others linked to their activities) or (b). Due to time or operational security (OPSEC) reasons they decided to leave the body out in the open. Past cartel TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) would suggest that the perpetrators wanted the body found to make a statement to other illicit narcotics and/or human trafficking smugglers. A body dump to dispose of a kidnapping victim (for family extortion purposes) also has to be considered but would appear highly unlikely. This incident will now likely end the debate concerning whether beheadings have taken place in the Arizona desert— though technically the victim may have been killed indoors for OPSEC reasons. While no such Arizona desert beheadings had been identified prior to this incident this cartel violence spillover ‘firebreak’ now appears to have been crossed [6].

Significance: Beheading; Cartel Tactics; Cartel TTPs; Cross Border Violence

Source(s):

1. Veronica M. Cruz, “Decapitated body found near Tucson Mountains.” Arizona Daily Star. Saturday 7 January 2012. http://azstarnet.com/news/local/crime/decapitated-body-found-near-tucson-mountains/article_dcfd05a7-73d2-598f-a44d-144b17ffae9f.html. Note—typos in original article.

2.  “Decapitated Body Found in Area West of Tucson.” MyFoxphoenix.com. Friday 6 January 2012. http://www.myfoxphoenix.com/dpp/news/crime/decapitated-body-found-in-rural-area-west-of-tucson-1-6-2012. Includes 2 crime scene photos.

3. Ina Ronquillo, “Beheaded murder victim found in Marana area.” Kgun-TV Tucson, AZ. Friday 6 January 2012. http://www.kgun9.com/news/local/136822898.html.

4. See former DEA supervisor Phil Jordan’s analysis. “Expert Says Beheadings in U.S. Look Like Work of Cartels.” KRGV.com. Tuesday 10 January 2012. http://www.krgv.com/news/expert-says-beheadings-in-u-s-look-like-work-of-cartels/.

5. Such incidents have the potential to be solved many months, even years, later when cartel and gang cells are broken up and the perpetrators accept plea deals to reduce sentences and/or seek immunity when they testify against their former associates.

6. See ABC15.com staff, “Have there been beheadings in Arizona desert?” ABC15.com. 2 September 2010. http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/state/have-there-been-beheadings-in-arizona. Contains a video sequence on the earlier debate that became politicized during Arizona gubernatorial elections in 2010. It should be noted that the Martin Alejandro Cota Monroy beheading in Chandler, Arizona, which was a Mexican cartel hit, took place in an apartment in October 2010.

Useful Reference(s):

Robert Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #8: Teen Tortured, Dismembered, Beheaded by Trafficking Gang in Bethany, Oklahoma.” Small Wars Journal. 3 January 2012. http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/mexican-cartel-tactical-note-8.

Pamela L. Bunker, Lisa J. Campbell, and Robert J. Bunker, “Torture, beheadings, and narcocultos.” Robert J. Bunker, ed., Narcos Over the Border. London: Routledge, 2011: 145-178.

Robert J. Bunker and Pamela L. Bunker, Beheadings and Ritual Murders Bibliography. Quantico, VA: FBI Academy Library. August 2007. http://fbilibrary.fbiacademy.edu/bibliographies.html#beheadings.

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 8

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 4:37pm

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #8:

Teen Tortured, Dismembered, Beheaded by Trafficking Gang in Bethany, Oklahoma

Key Information:

Via IBTimes Staff Reporter, “Carina Saunders: Teen Tortured, Dismembered, Beheaded by Trafficking Gang.” International Business Times, 23 December 2011:

Oklahoma teen Carina Saunders was brutally murdered as a means to frighten another woman into cooperating with a human trafficking ring, police have reported.

The 19-year-old who graduated from Mustang High School just last year was tortured, dismembered and beheaded. Parts of her body were found stuffed in a duffel bag and dumped behind a grocery store on Oct. 13. She was identified by her distinct tattoos.

Jimmy Lee Massey, 33, has been arrested on first-degree murder charges. A 20-year-old woman, whose name has not been disclosed, came forward as a witness to report she had been kidnapped by Massey and forced to watch the brutal murder in Bethany, Oklahoma, reports The Daily Mail.

Massey was already being held in Oklahoma County jail on drug charges. He has admitted to investigators that he kidnapped the 20-year-old woman and forced her to watch as others tortured and killed Saunders. He also provided details about the crime.

Both women reportedly knew Massey separately, but there is no evidence that the two women knew each other.

Police Chief Phil Cole said: "Evidence in our investigation has led us to believe that she had been expected to provide certain things to this trafficking group and that she had not been performing to their satisfaction."

"We believe there were other people there and they're now the focus of our investigation."

Another man, Francisco Gomez, was arrested in connection with the murder. As Gomez was led into the police station in handcuffs last night, he yelled to reporters "I've got nothing to do with no drugs, no murder, no nothing."

"We surrounded a possible address for Mr Gomez and he surrendered peacefully. He was booked on a trafficking charge," authorities said.

Despite the fact that she was known to run with a rough crowd and use drugs like marijuana, methamphetamine and Ecstasy, Saunders was a "random" choice for the killers, according to police.

Cole said, "Our information right now leads us to believe she was a random choice, as sad as that is. She had relationships within these loosely associated people, and I think that she was a victim of opportunity."

Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said a judgment will be made in January…[1].

For KFOR.com news channel 4 (Oklahoma City) videos pertaining to this incident see: http://www.kfor.com/news/local/kfor-graphic-suspect-arrested-after-girls-body-found-in-duffle-bag-20111220,0,6407719.story.

For a detailed 14:50 minute news video of a law enforcement press conference related to this incident see NewsOk, http://newsok.com/another-arrest-made-in-bethany-killing/article/3633876.

Who: Carina Saunders, 19, born in Oklahoma City and grew up in Mustang, Oklahoma [2].

What: Torture, beheading and dismemberment.

When: Went missing (per friends) Wednesday, 28 September 2011; Killed, late Sunday, 9 October 2011/early Monday, 10 October 2011 [6]; Body found Thursday, 13 October 2011; Identified via tattoos and dental records, Monday, 17 October 2011.

Where: Found in a duffle bag behind a Homeland grocery store at 7101 NW. 23rd and Rockwell in Bethany, Oklahoma [2][3].

Why: Used as an example to terrify a group of women who were victims of a human trafficking (prostitution) ring and an associated drug trafficking ring [4]. Note— some of the individuals involved were members of both rings.

Tactical Analysis: A 20 year old woman (name withheld by the police to protect her identity) was kidnapped, blindfolded and transported to an unknown location (some type of room) by Jimmy Lee Massey, age 33, late Sunday 9 October/early Monday 10 October 2011. She was then forced to watch the torture killing of Carina Saunders by a small group of individuals. 

Carina Saunders, the victim, was a known user of marijuana, methamphetamine and Ecstasy [1]. She had multiple tattoos. One of which is a ‘Kween Spade’ with a spade in an oval between her breasts [5]. No other upper body tattoos or tattoos on lower legs/ankles are evident from social networking photos. Due to her associations, she came in contact with the network of some of the members of the human trafficking and drug trafficking rings. Per the police, she appeared to be a random target of opportunity in this torture killing. Little mention has been made of the condition of Saunders from the time of her kidnapping to her death, though similar incident patterns would suggest that she was most likely physically and sexually abused.

The incident intent of the criminal gang(s) was for the 20 year old woman to let the other victims (i.e. sex slaves) of the ring know that, if they did not cooperate with gang member orders, this is what would happen to them too. The woman who witnessed this crime instead went to the police and reported the incident. Jimmy Lee Massey (aka “Big County” or “Country”) was subsequently arrested on 4 November 2011 and booked on drug trafficking warrants— he had also been the focus of a large narcotics investigation. Massey was read his Miranda Warnings and Rights, then waived them, and proceeded to discuss his part in the kidnapping of the 20 year old woman, the torture killing of Saunders, and the dismemberment of her body and its disposal. He now faces charges, filed on Tuesday, 20 December 2011, related to kidnapping, assault and battery, and murder [6].  It should be noted that “Massey also identified other persons that were involved and present in the room and involved in the murder.” [6].

Another suspect, Francisco Gomez, age 31, was then taken into custody on 20 December 2011 [7]. Per a law enforcement press conference pertaining to this incident, Gomez is thought to be a US citizen, however, quite a few Mexican nationals have been implicated as also having ties to this incident and/or the drug trafficking ring [8]. This is an ongoing investigation with more suspects and/or persons of interest being sought.

Whether this incident is directly linked to Mexican cartel/gang involvement or inspired by such killings is unknown at this time. Of note is that a NewsOk report has its story on this incident linked to a page entitled “Cartel Connection: Oklahoma’s #1 Threat” with a state highway map and drug cartel-based crimes superimposed over a map of the state of Oklahoma [9].

This torture killing (decapitation) incident is of much concern because it has all the hallmarks of a Mexican cartel killing. If this incident is directly tied to Mexican cartel or gang members, it will neither be the first nor the last such incident, with a small but growing, number of torture killing (decapitation) incidents now having taken place domestically over the last decade. These include the following US incidents (see Table 2.) listed in Pamela L. Bunker, Lisa J. Campbell, and Robert J. Bunker, “Torture, beheadings, and narcocultos” in Narcos Over the Border [10]:

To this listing can be added the more recent Chandler, Arizona beheading incident which took place in October 2010. In that incident, Martin Alejandro Cota Monroy was killed in his apartment by the PEI-Estatales/El Chapo drug cartel in retaliation for stealing a 400 pound load of marijuana [11].

Significance: Beheading; Cartel Tactics; Cross Border Violence; Human Trafficking; Torture Killing

Source(s):

1. See http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/272193/20111223/carina-saunders-teen-tortured-dismembered-beheaded-trafficking.htm.

2. Jon Watje, “Friends remember Mustang High School graduate.” Mustang Times. Monday 24, October 2011, http://www.mustangpaper.com/v2/inactive.aspx.

3. Homeland, http://www.homelandstores.com/StoreLocator.aspx.

4. Asia One News, “Woman forced to watch murder.” Originally published in The New Paper, Sunday, 25 December 2011, http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Crime/Story/A1Story20111224-318025.html.

5. Daily Mail, http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/12/21/article-2077059-0F3F904C00000578-329_634x379.jpg. Original source is news9.com which obtained the photo via a social networking site (assumed).

6. See the District Court of Oklahoma document (the probable cause affidavit), filed 20 December 2011, pertaining to Jimmy Lee Massey, http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/griffin/NEWS9/PDF/1112/Jimmy%20Massey%20Arrest.PDF.

7. Bryan Dean and Robert Medley, “Another arrest made in Bethany killing.” NewsOk, 21 December 2011, http://newsok.com/another-arrest-made-in-bethany-killing/article/3633876.

8. see NewsOk, http://newsok.com/another-arrest-made-in-bethany-killing/article/3633876.

9. “Cartel Connection: Oklahoma’s #1 Threat.” NewsOk. See http://newsok.com/news/drugcartel.

10. Pamela L. Bunker, Lisa J. Campbell, and Robert J. Bunker, “Torture, beheadings, and narcocultos.” Robert J. Bunker, ed., Narcos Over the Border. London: Routledge, 2011: 159.

11. Reuters, “Police link Arizona beheading to Mexican drug cartel.” Thursday 3 March 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/04/us-beheading-arizona-idUSTRE7230L320110304.

 

 

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 7

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 10:08am

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 7:

Los Zetas Three Vehicle (SUV) Commando Engages in Offensive Action in Northwest Harris County, Texas: Ensuing Fire Fight with US Law Enforcement

Key Information:

Via Dane Schiller, Houston Chronicle [1]:

The mission was supposed to be a textbook “controlled delivery” - a routine trap by law enforcement officers using a secret operative posing as a truck driver to bust drug traffickers when their narcotics are delivered to a rendezvous point.

Instead, things spun out of control. Shortly before the marijuana delivery was to be made Monday afternoon, three sport-utility vehicles carrying Zetas cartel gunmen seemingly came out of nowhere and cut off the tanker truck as it rumbled through northwest Harris County, sources told the Chronicle.

They sprayed the cab with bullets, killing the civilian driver, who was secretly working with the government. A sheriff's deputy, who was driving nearby in another vehicle, was wounded, possibly by friendly fire…

Sources discussed aspects of the shoot-out on the condition that they not be identified publicly due to the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation.

A contingent of law-enforcement officers had been covertly shadowing the truck as it eased its way through the Houston area to deliver a load of marijuana fresh from the Rio Grande Valley…

As the gunmen attacked, officers quickly jumped into the fray and also opened fire on the attackers. The truck kept rolling until it careened off the roadway and came to a halt.

Dozens of law-enforcement officers descended on the scene as well as fanned out in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Four suspects, all believed to be citizens of Mexico, were arrested and charged Monday with capital murder in connection with the shooting…

…The sheriff's deputy, who has not yet been identified publicly, was hit in the knee during the melee, which involved several cars and guns…

Authorities would not discuss how the deceased driver, who in addition to being a confidential informant and holding a job as a commercial truck driver, first made contact with the traffickers….

…While some of the arrested attackers have allegedly admitted to an affiliation with the Mexico-based Zetas, authorities said they are trying to determine why such a bold and risky attack was launched over just 300 pounds of marijuana…

A 3:01 minute news video concerning the incident can be accessed via:

http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=8439923 [2].

Who: Los Zetas’ personnel (Three Mexican nationals captured—two from Neuvo Laredo; Eric De Luna, 23; Ricardo Ramirez, 35 and Rolando Resendiz, 34; one other individual— Fernando Tavera, 19).

See primary source for booking photos [1] and another source for prior convictions and charges via court documents [7]. Other Zetas’ personnel are thought to have fled the incident scene. Three SUVs (a Black Lincoln Navigator was recovered at the scene) were utilized.  

What: Planned multi-agency law enforcement ‘controlled delivery’ using a confidential informant driving a 18-wheeler tanker truck with 300 lbs of marijuana interdicted by Los Zetas’ commando with ensuing fire fight. Confidential informant killed, undercover Harris county sheriffs deputy wounded (HCSO), and four Zetas captured.

When:  Monday afternoon, 21 November 2011.

Where: On Hollister Drive near Bourgeois Road in Northwest Harris County, Texas (near Houston) [6].

Why: Unknown; theories include the targeted killing (assassination) of the confidential informant and that a rip-off crew was assembled to steal what was thought to be a much larger load of marijuana. Another possibility is that the load was targeted because it was operating on Los Zetas turf and those associated with it had not paid local protection money (plaza taxes).

Tactical Analysis: This is a significant event and represents an escalation in cross border violence. According to Javier Pena, the new head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Houston Division, “Everybody is surprised at the brazenness…We haven’t seen this type of violence, which concerns us.” [1].

Given that the truck cab was sprayed with bullets it can be assumed that some of Los Zetas personnel carried semi-automatic rifles. No mention of individual body armor, vehicular armor, or actual weapons carried has been disclosed. All captured Zetas had military style (short) haircuts with no tattoos evident in the booking photos so unit discipline is noted. US law enforcement presence was significant when the Los Zetas offensive action took place and was augmented with dozens of responding officers. Under other circumstances, the three vehicle (SUV) Los Zetas commando’ could have potentially overwhelmed one or two responding police units if a ‘controlled delivery’ law enforcement operation had not been taking place.

Of additional concern are three other cross border homicide incidents recently mentioned in press reports. Concerning the first incident, a federal grand jury indictment (now sealed) stated that US Border Agent Brian A. Terry was killed in Mesquite Seep, Arizona, by an offensive patrol—“with the intent to ‘intentionally and forcibly assault’ Border Patrol agents”— composed of five illegal Mexican immigrants [3].  At least two of these individuals carried AK-47 semi-automatic rifles at ready position (barrel down at 45 degree angle/gun butt in shoulder)— in a meeting engagement on 14 December 2010 at 11:15 pm. The two AK-47s have been traced back to the failed BATF ‘Fast and Furious’ operation [3]. The Peck Canyon area is a well-known human and drug smuggling route. Which Mexican cartel, or drug gang the offensive narco unit was associated with was not disclosed. The second incident took place in Hidalgo County, Texas on Sunday 30 October 2011 during a traffic stop. Deputy Hugo Rodriguez was shot by David Gonzales Perez, a Gulf cartel contractor, in the chest and abdomen. Perez and another cartel operative had kidnapped two individuals who purportedly knew where over a thousand pounds of stolen Gulf cartel marijuana had been stashed. Perez was killed in the ensuing gun battle with the wounded deputy and his partner [4]. The third incident took place on Monday 21 November 2011 about 20 miles northwest of the border city of Nogales, Texas in the Devil’s Canyon area of the Tumacacori Mountains. Three men, two of which have been identified as Mexican nationals, were found dead, shot in the head execution style. The bodies had lain in the area for up to two weeks. The executed men are suspected of being drug traffickers [5].

Taken together these four very violent incidents represent more ‘data points’ for Mexican cartel cross border incursion tracking. More importantly, at the officer safety level, two of these incidents suggest that US law enforcement officers should expect to engage Cartel foot soldiers armed with AK-47 semi-automatic rifles as standard issue weapons (at a minimum). The 7.62mm armor piercing round of the AK-47 will defeat standard issue US law enforcement body armor. Further, as in the Brian A. Terry homicide incident, the US law enforcement officers initially fired back using shotguns with less-than-lethal beanbag loads. While the agents carried fully loaded side arms (with 2 additional magazines), the AK-47s are far superior militarily (in regards to rate-of-fire, penetration, and range) than the policing weapons. Additionally, the cartel tactical units/personnel initiated offensive actions against US law enforcement personnel in three of these highlighted incidents. For this reason officer safety, and military-like force protection, training will become increasingly relevant for law enforcement personnel deployed in areas of operation (AOR) containing Mexican cartel tactical units.    

Significance: Cartel Tactics; Cross Border Incursion; Force Protection; Officer Safety  

Source(s):

1.  Dane Schiller, “Zeta soldiers launched Mexico-style attack in Harris County.” Houston Chronicle. Updated 11:27 p.m., Tuesday, 22 November 2011, http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Zeta-soldiers-launched-Mexico-style-attack-in-2283370.php.

2. Houston (KTRK), “Sheriff's deputy shot, informant killed in undercover operation gone bad.” ABC News. Tuesday, November 22, 2011, http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=8439923. Related videos appear at end of the news video.

3. Jerry Seper, “Armed illegals stalked Border Patrol: Mexicans were ‘patrolling’ when agent was slain, indictment says.” The Washington Times. Tuesday 22 November 2011, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/22/armed-illegals-stalked-border-patrol/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS.

4. Erika Flores, “Sheriff confirms deputy was shot in ‘spillover’ violence incident.” Valley Central.com. Monday 21 October 2011, http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=681024. See the Action-4 2.25 minute video.

5. Reuters, “Three Killed ‘Execution Style’ at U.S.-Mexico Border.” The New York Times. Tuesday 22 November 2011,

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2011/11/22/world/americas/international-us-usa-crime-mexico.html?_r=1&ref=world.

6. Action 4 News Staff, “Valley ties reported in deadly Zetas ‘attack’ near Houston.” ValleyCentral.com. 23 November 2011, http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=690057.

7. Christopher Sherman, “4 charged with capital murder in Houston attack on drug load watched by law enforcement.” The Republic. 23 November 2011, http://m.therepublic.com/view/story/a6fbb36bed5645288c7f2c4acbd84267/.

Background Note

Graham H. Turbiville, Jr., “Firefights, raids, and assassinations: tactical forms of cartel violence and their underpinnings.” Robert J. Bunker, ed., Narcos Over the Border. London: Routledge, 2011: 123-144.

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 6

Tue, 11/15/2011 - 4:39pm

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 6:

Cross Border Incursion with SWAT Teams Responding: 15 Cartel/Gang Gunmen Cross into US Near Escobares, Texas

Key Information:

Via The Monitor [1]:

ESCOBARES — Gunmen crossed the Rio Grande into the United States near a shootout between where the Mexican military and a group of gunmen was taking place.

Several area SWAT teams responded about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to a ranch near Escobares, just across the U.S.-Mexico border, where a shootout broke out south of the Rio Grande.

The shootout reportedly began shortly after noon but details were not immediately available. Residents on the U.S. side reported seeing members of the U.S. Border Patrol and Starr County Sheriff’s Office securing the area near the border.

Border Patrol spokeswoman Rosalinda Huey said agents had been tracking a suspected drug load near La Rosita and pushed it back to Mexico.

Border Patrol alerted Mexican authorities of the suspected load and then found an injured Mexican national on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, Huey said. Emergency crews rushed the man to an area hospital. His condition remains unknown.

The man, a suspected cartel gunman, had been shot by Mexican authorities, a separate U.S. law enforcement official said.

The official confirmed a group of as many as 15 gunmen had crossed the Rio Grande, though it remained unclear whether they were Mexican soldiers or cartel gunmen.

“We don’t know who they are,” the official said. “We haven’t gotten that information yet.”

Local authorities in Hidalgo County provided backup support along the Rio Grande as Border Patrol dispatched additional agents from the McAllen area to the incident in rural Starr County.

The experience was a bit unnerving for Ricardo Guerra, whose brother owns La Prieta Ranch in La Rosita. Guerra was overseeing the ranch hands shortly after noon when they noticed that the roads near the property became quickly swarmed with authorities.

“Yeah, you worry when that happens,” Guerra said. “We all went back inside the house. It looks like there was something going on over there (Mexico); we heard four or five shots from the helicopter. It looks like the (Mexican military) helicopter was shooting at the people on the ground over there.”

While he heard the shots, Guerra’s property soon swarmed with more than 100 law enforcement officials from various agencies.

“We saw them take one guy in an ambulance,” Guerra said. “He looked in bad shape.”

Additional information was solicited from the Border Patrol spokeswoman, one of the original reporters of the above newspaper story, and the Starr County Sheriff’s Office who have investigative authority over this incident. No further information was provided.

Who:  15 gunmen— elements of a cartel/drug gang.

What: Armed incursion on US soil by criminal combatants from the Mexican drug war.

When: Tuesday 8 November 2011 at 1:30 PM (13:30).

Where: A ranch near Escobares, Texas, just across the U.S.-Mexico border, north of the Rio Grande. See map [1].

Why: Bringing a drug load into the US and escape and evasion by elements of a cartel/drug gang from the Mexican military. 

Tactical Analysis: The most plausible explanation concerning the identity of the 15 gunmen is that they belong to a Mexican cartel/drug gang. The drug load had been pushed back from the Texas side over the border in a coordinated effort by US federal and local law enforcement and the Mexican military who had been alerted by the Border Patrol. Further, it would make no sense for the Mexican military to openly risk an international incident, or the possibility of a friendly fire event, by crossing the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo) in hot pursuit when they were actively coordinating with US law enforcement assets. For the responding US SWAT teams, this incident poses a potentially dangerous situation. It is more of a military operation on a “movement to contact” than a conventional SWAT operation in the US. SWAT teams are trained and equipped to contend with criminals in barricade and hostage type situations and are accustomed to stacked (bunched together) movement and entry tactics. Typically the criminals encountered are found in small numbers— usually one or maybe two— and may or may not have a shotgun, semi-automatic rifle, and some form of body armor. It is the intent of such criminals to flee from responding police forces and only put up a fight if corned out of desperation—even then such criminals typically surrender to responding SWAT units. A group of 15 cartel/drug gang gunmen represents an entirely different threat—it essentially contains a reinforced squad of opposing force personnel. These cartel/gang foot soldiers will be proactive in their actions—not reactive like most criminals encountered— and therefore represent an opposing (enemy) force the US SWAT teams are unaccustomed to. Besides the potentials for ambushes and fires and movement being conducted by the cartel/gang gunmen, their semi-automatic (and full auto) assault weapons and the great likelihood of the presence of grenade-launchers and fragmentation grenades makes for a military-like engagement scenario that is beyond present SWAT capabilities to effectively respond. Under these circumstances, standard SWAT operating procedures—such as the use of stacked movement tactics— could be disastrous in their implementation.

Significance: Cross Border Incursion; Officer Safety; SWAT Tactics

Source(s):

1. Ildefonso Ortiz and Jared Taylor, “SWAT teams dispatched as gun battle unfolds near Escobares.” The Monitor. 9 November 2011, http://www.themonitor.com/articles/escobares-56422-swat-teams.html.

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 5

Mon, 10/24/2011 - 2:11pm

Key Information:

Via “Monterrey: Army attacked in car bomb ambush.” Borderland Beat

Thursday, October 20, 2011 [1]: 

A parked car loaded with explosives was detonated by remote control as a military convoy drove by in Monterrey’s southside in an ambush reminiscent of attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East.

The incident took place around 5:10 am this morning on Avenida Revolucion close to the intersection with Ricardo Covarrubias, in the Colonia Ladrillera, outside of a machine shop/auto garage.

A military source said that during a surveillance patrol in the Colonia Ladrillera soldiers detected a suspicious vehicle, a black Jetta, which resulted in a pursuit thru Avenida Revolución.

As the pursuit continued north on Avenida Revolucion a Nissan Sentra or Tsuru with Tamaulipas license plates was detonated remotely moments before the Army vehicles passed the location, between Berel and Ricardo Covarrubias.

No soldiers or civilians were reported injured in the attack.

Debris from the blast was scatterd over several meters. The door to the machine shop was heavily damaged and windows were broken in buildings for at least a block.

Avenida Revolucion remained closed as bomb experts and forensic examiners investigated the blast scene.

[Includes 8 photos of the incident scene and a 4 minute Mexican news video: view via http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2011/10/monterrey-army-attacked-in-car-bomb.html.]

Via “Army seizes explosives in Veracruz.” Borderland Beat. Thursday, October 20, 2011 [2]:

In a security operation that occurred Wednesday in the southern Veracruz city of Coatzacoalcos, military personnel seized high explosives, detonators, weapons, cell phones, military type equipment and stolen vehicles from a safehouse located in the colonia Brisas del Golfo area of the city.

The El Universal news agency reported that Mexican Army sources in Coatzacoalcos identified the explosives seized as 45 C-4 plastic explosive charges.

Five suspects were detained by the military during the operation.

[Includes 5 photos of the seized explosives, cell phones, vehicles and weapons: view via http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2011/10/army-seizes-explosives-in-veracruz.html].

VBIED Anti-Vehicular/Anti-Personnel Ambush:

Who: Los Zetas [assumed]

What: I&W event involving a VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device)/car bomb deployed against a mounted Mexican Army patrol by means of an ambush.

When: Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 5:10am in the morning [3].

Where: On Avenida Revolucion close to the intersection with Ricardo Covarrubias, in the Colonia Ladrillera, outside of a machine shop/auto garage in Monterrey, Mexico.

Why: The Mexican military is attempting to help pacify Monterrey, Mexico, bring down the homicide rate, and limit local drug cartel and gang political influence. The ambush is a response to this Mexican military operation.

Tactical Analysis: Provides an Indications & Warning (I&W) event concerning Los Zetas [assumed] tactics and capabilities. A cell phone detonated improvised explosive device (IED) placed inside the trunk of a small sedan is the most plausible—making it a VBIED (vehicle borne IED)—method of attack. The explosive type utilized is unknown but C-4 is quite probable; these assumptions have not been confirmed forensically and therefore are only speculative. A cartel vehicle was used as bait to bring a mounted Mexican Army patrol into the prepared kill zone. The VBIED was detonated prematurely with no soldiers or civilians injured in the ambush. Scenario 1: The VBIED was meant to be utilized in an efficient anti-vehicular/anti-personnel role to produce maximum Mexican military causalities. The ambush was unsuccessful due to the premature VBIED detonation and/or the explosive yield/dynamics utilized (small yield/non- directional). Scenario 2: The VBIED was utilized symbolically (as a warning) to the Mexican military to cease/limit their operations in Monterrey [4]. No matter the accuracy of either scenario, this incident represents the first recorded use of a VBIED against a mounted Mexican Army patrol and a further escalation of VBIED tactical evolution taking place in the criminal insurgencies in Mexico. The VBIED in an ambush role component itself is not unique— it was utilized in the VBIED attack against dismounted Mexican law enforcement in July 2010 in Ciudad Juárez perpetrated by the Juárez cartel [5]. Explosives seized: The C-4 explosives (45 packages), detonators, and cell phones seized in Veracruz, Mexico, prior to the VBIED attack demonstrate that caches of bomb making materials belonging to Los Zetas [assumed] exist in other regions of Mexico and can be used to fabricate additional VBIEDs [2]. Further, if the recent Mexican Cartel Tactical Note No. 4 is referenced, it can be seen that C-4 explosives (3 packages) are once again identified related to a Los Zetas [assumed] weapons cache [6]. Potentials: The assumption must be considered that Los Zetas possess a growing VBIED fabrication and deployment capability.    

Significance: Cartel Weaponry; I&W; Officer Safety Issues; TTPs

Source(s):

1. The original Mexican news sources are:

http://www.elnorte.com/seguridad/articulo/654/1306879/.

http://www.elnorte.com/seguridad/articulo/654/1306973/.

2. The original Mexican news source is: http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/802722.html.

3. The alternative time of 4:00 AM for the incident has been provided in other news sources. Both times suggested would mean that the device was detonated under cover of darkness (sunrise is at 7:42 AM) while visibility levels are lower.  For sunrise validation see http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=162&month=10&year=2011&obj=sun&afl=-11&day=1.

4. This perception is attributed to John P. Sullivan, an El Centro Senior Fellow, during discussions on 20 October 2011 concerning the use of symbolic and instrumental violence pertaining to this VBIED ambush.

5. Note—C-4 explosives were utilized via cell phone detonation. For more information pertaining to that incident see John P. Sullivan, “Explosive Escalation?  Reflections on the Car Bombing in Ciudad Juarez.” Small Wars Journal. 21 July 2010, http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/explosive-escalation.

6. David Kuhn and Robert Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Notes: No 4. Cartel Military Weapons Cache Discovered Near Fronton, Texas.” Small Wars Journal. 15 October 2011, http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/mexican-cartel-tactical-note-4.

 

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 4

Sat, 10/15/2011 - 5:51pm

Mexican Cartel Tactical Notes: No 4. Cartel Military Weapons Cache Discovered Near Fronton, Texas.

Who: US Border Patrol Agents find a Mexican cartel (assumed) weapons cache and turn it over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATF) for further investigation. Border Patrol Chief Rosendo Hinojosa made comments to the media pertaining to the incident.

What: Black bag found in the brush containing:

            • 6 Assault Rifles [See Photo]

            • 1 Rocket Launcher [See Photo]

            • 1 Grenade Launcher

            • 3 Packages of C-4 Explosives (Per News Video)

            • 1 Lower Receiver for an Assault Rifle

            • 20 Magazines

When:  Tuesday, 13 September 2011.

Where:  Near Fronton, Texas, North of the Rio Grande River on US soil. Mexican city reference: Roughly between Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa.

Why:  The weapons cache was either left in the brush near the Rio Grande for pick up or abandoned due to US LE presence in the vicinity. One assumption is that the weapons were meant for a cartel kill-team/enforcers operating in the region; another is that they were on their way to Mexico.

Photo Forensics:

Photo: Courtesy of US Customs and Border Protection (For Public Release)

General ID information only due to the angle and resolution of the picture.

Top Weapon: An enhancement of the sling ring and end cap shows that it is an M-72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW), possibly an A2 model.

2nd Weapon: Either an AR-15 or an M-16 (selector on opposite side) that appears to be a “parts” weapon. It is not in fireable condition as the recoil spring and recoil spring housing are missing along with the stock.

3rd Weapon: Appears in all respects to be an AR-10 (7.62mm x 51mm).  The verified size of the magazine well is consistent with that of a 7.62mm magazine and the slight forward cant of the well is germane to the AR-10 only.  Additionally, the enlarged head on the take-down pin on the receiver of this Armalite is not common to other AR models, but does occur on the AR-10; and the size and format of the brass deflector on this weapon only occurs on the AR-10. There is also no forward assist on the receiver. Production time period and exact model variance from the angle of view is uncertain.

4th Weapon: An AK action in a polymer stock; possibly a knock-off that was originally semi-auto possibly converted to full.

5th Weapon: Weapon with the well-worn receiver appears to be a select-fire M-4 carbine.

6th Weapon: appears to be a Model SAR-4800 Sporter Rifle in 7.62 x 51mm.  The pistol grip on the stock has been trimmed way down to fit a smaller hand.  The barrel has also been cut off just ahead of the gas piston adjustment for maneuverability.

7th Weapon (Partial): No ID due to partial image.

Tactical Analysis: Mexican cartel weapon caches containing military grade weaponry have been regularly found throughout Mexico and even close to the US-Mexican border. This specific cache was found on US soil and contained a rocket launcher (M72 LAW), a grenade launcher (type not identified), and C-4 explosives in addition to assault rifles. Of significance is that an earlier weapons cache was also discovered in this same area by US Border Patrol personnel (assigned to the Rio Grande City Station) on Wednesday 16 March 2011. During that incident a suspicious pickup truck was viewed and when personnel searched the area where it had stopped they found a large duffle bag hidden in the brush. The bag contained:

            • 8 AK-47 Assault Rifles

            • 2 AR-15 Assault Rifles

            • 350 Rounds of Ammo (Varying calibers)

• 2 Grenades (Type not identified; blown in place by local bomb squad)

• 1 40mm Grenade Launcher [See Photo; appears to be a M-203 variant]

These weapons were also turned over to the BATF for further investigation.

Photo: Courtesy of US Customs and Border Protection (For Public Release)

Initial analysis suggests that cartel operatives for whatever reason, likely Zetas or Gulf cartel personnel given the location of the find, are now bringing heavier infantry weapons into the United States. That analysis, however, is in variance with earlier statements made by Chief Hinojosa who said the weapons in the March seizure were being smuggled into Mexico. In that case military grade weapons such as the 40mm Grenade Launcher (presumably stolen and then resold) are loose in the US and are being sent to Mexico. In either scenario the rocket and grenade launcher seized in September 2011 (and the grenade launcher seized earlier) pose a significant US officer safety threat as does the C-4 which can be utilized in an improvised explosive device (IED) role.  

Significance: Cartel Weaponry; Officer Safety Issues

Source(s):

Mark Nino, “Border Patrol Agents Seize Weapon Cache”. KVEO 23- Rio Grande Valley. 14 September 2011, http://www.kveo.com/news/border-patrol-agents-seize-weapon-cache. [See Video]

Ildefonso Ortiz, “Border Patrol finds rocket launcher, grenade launcher, explosives near Rio Grande.” The Monitor. 14 September 2011, http://www.themonitor.com/news/launcher-54726-grande-grenade.html.

Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol, CBP Public Affairs, “Agents Find Cache of Weapons near Rio Grande”. 17 March 2011, http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/archives/march_2011/03172011_3.xml.

South Texas Today, “BP Agents Find Weapons, Ammunition and Grenade”. 17 March 2011, http://mannydelarosa40.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/bp-agents-find-weapons-ammunition-and-grenade/.

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 3: Narco Armored Vehicle Threats and Countermeasures

Mon, 08/29/2011 - 12:39pm

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 3: Narco Armored Vehicle Threats and Countermeasures

Robert J. Bunker

Who: Mexican Cartels (Lev III/IAFV; primarily Zetas & Gulf Cartel) 

What: The deployment of narco armored cars and improvised armored fighting vehicles (IAFVs) in Mexico as a byproduct of the criminal insurgencies taking place.

When: I&W (indications & warnings) traced back to at least 1979 to the Dadeland Mall shooting in Florida tied to a Colombian cartel assassination team using improvised ballistic protection in a delivery truck (historical). Mexican cartel deployment of armored SUVs begins by the late 1990s and has greatly increased over time. A firebreak was crossed with the initial deployment of improvised armored fighting vehicles (IAFVs) in 2010.

Where: Threat Level I- sporadic at best in Mexico; Threat Level II- throughout cartel areas of operations in Mexico; Threat Level III- primarily in North-Eastern and Central Mexico, with vehicles recovered in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.

Why: For well over a decade now, a deadly arms race has been taking place in Mexico between the various warring cartels and their gang and mercenary auxiliary forces. Weaponry has been shifting from civilian arms to law enforcement arms and then to infantry combat small arms. The introduction of cartel enforcers with former military and special forces backgrounds has resulted in the fielding of cartel units that have been increasingly professionalized. A component of this process is the deployment of armored SUVs and improvised armored fighting vehicles (IAFVs).

Synopsis of Narco Armored Vehicle Threats

Threat Level

Description

Encountered

Specifics

I (Defensive)

Vehicle with Improvised/Hasty Ballistic Protection 

‘War wagon’ at Dadeland Mall, Florida (1979); sporadic/hasty use in Mexico (current)

Ballistic vests hanging inside a delivery truck to provide protection to Colombian cartel assassination team (historical); vests, sand bags, and/or steel plates for basic ballistic protection  

II (Defensive)

Professionally Armored SUV

Throughout Mexico (Increasingly since the late 1990s)

Internal armor kits, ballistic glass, run flat tires

III- Early (Offensive)

Improvised Pill Box/Firing Position on Bed of Truck [see Gerardo for evolutionary examples]

Primarily North-Eastern and Central Mexico (~2009-2010); typically superceded by more mature variant

Work trucks with soft cabs; armored screens/box with firing ports for gunmen in bed

III- Mature (Offensive)

Improvised Armored Fighting Vehicle (IAFV) [aka “narco-tanks” (narcotanques), “Rhino trucks,” and “monster trucks” (monstruos); [Sullivan/Elkus]

Primarily North-Eastern and Central Mexico (since 2010)/td>

Platforms used are typically  work trucks/ heavy equipment. Exterior armor plating (.5 to 2.5 cm), gunports, and air conditioning for mounted troops; external gun mounts, turret firing ports, breaching rams

IV (Offensive)

IAFV with organic tank-like gun

Predicted Evolution 

Level III with organic anti-vehicular main gun

Tactical Analysis

Narco armored vehicles come in defensive (Lev I-II) and offensive (Lev III) variants. While Lev II vehicles were superior in defensive armor to early Lev III vehicles (which did not have protected cabs/driver compartments), the early Lev III vehicles utilized gun ports as an offensive innovation. This allows for mounted infantry tactics to be conducted much like those undertaken by military units.

Defensive Vehicles

 Threat Level I: Hasty/improvised ballistic protection utilized in otherwise soft vehicle. Countermeasures: Utilize shredder/hardened projectiles (via shotgun) and higher velocity AP rounds (via semi-auto rifles) for anti-personnel use and to target tires and engines (radiator) for mobility kills, establish perimeter to allow for more specialized SWAT response.

Threat Level II: Professionally armored SUVs can be encountered alone or in “commando units” of up to dozens of vehicles in Mexico. These threats can also be interspersed with soft (unarmored) vehicles. Since firing ports are atypical, cartel gunmen lose primary defensive advantage when dismounting to engage other forces, still, the armored doors/vehicle body can be used for ballistic shielding purposes. Countermeasures: Attempt mobility kills against tires and engines (radiator), target dismounted gunmen with small arms fire, establish perimeter to allow for more specialized SWAT response. The deployment of spike strips and/or commandeering trucks/big rigs to isolate avenues of approach/contain in urban choke points may be warranted.

Offensive Vehicles

Threat Level III- Early: Armored fighting position/pill box placed on the truck bed. Countermeasures: Target driver in soft cab, engine (radiator), and/or tires for a mobility kill. Maintain standoff ranges/establish perimeter to allow for more specialized SWAT/military resources to engage armored position/pillbox.

Threat Level III- Mature: An improvised armored fighting vehicle (IAFV) with full body protection, gun ports, and an air conditioning unit carrying between 5-20 cartel gunmen. Variants may include breaching rams, turreted gun ports, cell boosters (for communications), and other innovations. Sizes range primarily from work trucks through dump truck size vehicles. They are somewhat like the Mexican Federal police vehicle El “rinoceronte” but cruder in appearance. Tires may be exposed or protected by armor—no “run flat” tire usage evident to date. These vehicles have only been seen individually or in small numbers operating together though dozens of these vehicles (possibly more than 100) have now been built. The attachment of a few of these vehicles to provided security to a narco armored SUV convoy (Level II threat) must now be a consideration. Note— cartel gunmen riding in these vehicles may be carrying RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) or tube launched anti-tank weapons that allow them to target and knock out opposing cartel IAFVs. This represents an additional concern in addition to military small arms (assault rifles, launchers, and grenades) being carried by these mobile infantry forces. This threat is beyond most Mexican state and federal law enforcement response capabilities. Countermeasures: Military medium and heavy tanks and other anti-armor systems; in dire situations can target tires for mobility kill, utilize spike strips, and/or commandeer trucks/big rigs to isolate avenues of approach/contain in urban choke points while awaiting military support.

Threat Level IV (Predicted Evolution): Linear projection of the Level III Threat into the future. Superior anti-vehicular offensive capabilities of such an organic (main) gun added to IAFVs would generate a threat way beyond Mexican state and federal law enforcement response capabilities. Probable 50 Cal. initial machine gun system usage with an eventual increase into smaller 20-40 mm cannon sizes derived from AA (anti-aircraft) guns. Countermeasures: Same as Level III- Mature; responding to this threat would basically turn this into a conventional military AFV engagement. Utilizing attack helicopters with anti-armor systems against these vehicles would be warranted.

No expectation exists for US law enforcement inside US territory to encounter a narco improvised armored fighting vehicle (IAFV) [Level III Threat]. While such a vehicle, in an overwatch position in Mexico, could conceivably cover a drug load going into the US, such a scenario presently appears unlikely—though co-opted personnel in Mexican military vehicles in years past have been involved in such incidents. Far more likely scenarios for US law enforcement on the US side of the border are sporadic/potential encounters with Mexican cartel operatives in defensive oriented Level I and Level II threat vehicles. [Note- some instances of cartel vehicles containing caltrop and oil slick dropping compartments have been reported. The effectiveness of such systems will vary].

*Countermeasures guidance underwent a basic tactical review by retired law enforcement and military personnel with extensive special operations field experience.  

Significance: Cartel Tactics; Cartel Weaponry; Law Enforcement Countermeasures/Response; Officer Safety Issues

Sources

Mexican Cartels now using ‘tanks’”- William Booth, Washington Post, June 7, 2011.

Narco Motor Trend”- Gerardo, Borderland Beat, June 19, 2011. [See source for extensive collection of vehicular pictures].

Monster Trucks in Mexico: The Zetas Armor Up”- STRATFOR, July 4, 2011.

Narco-Armor in Mexico”- John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, Small Wars Journal, July 14, 2011.

'Narco-Tanks': Mexico's Cartels Get Asymmetric Weapons”- Gordon Housworth, In Sight, July, 2011.

Also see the numerous English and Spanish http://www.youtube.com video clips of these vehicles.

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 2

Wed, 06/01/2011 - 9:26pm

Mexican Cartel Tactical Notes: No 2. Ambush/Targeted Killing of US Law Enforcement Officer (San Antonio, Texas)

 

Mexican cartel linkages to this incident are currently being investigated but have not been confirmed by US Law Enforcement

Who: Sergeant Kenneth Vann, 48, Bexar County Sheriff's, Texas.

What: Ambush-Targeted Killing of US Law Enforcement Officer.

When: About 2:00 AM Saturday 28 May 2011.

Where: While in uniform, sitting in his marked patrol car at a traffic light at Loop 410 and Rigsby Road (on San Antonio's southeast side) on his way to a call.

Why: Unknown. Initial speculation via Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz is that the officer was randomly targeted because he was a governmental representative/symbol of authority. No motive has been established and no one has claimed credit.

Synopsis: Hasty overview; The officer was waiting at a traffic light. The flashing lights/siren were not turned on in the patrol car and the officer was obeying traffic laws. A small white car is thought to have pulled up next to Sgt. Vann's vehicle. A gunman then fired an estimated 28 rounds via a semi-automatic weapon— possibly an AK-47 assault rifle—at the officer in two bursts. Sgt. Vann was pronounced dead at the scene. Suspect(s) are still at large.

Update: On Tuesday, a sheriff's spokesman said investigators were looking for a royal blue Ford F-150 pickup truck that left the intersection where the incident took place. The small white car has been found and is being processed by forensics. Reward of $127,000.00 now offered for the arrest of those responsible; More than 300 officers from 10 law enforcement agencies—armed with about 1,300 warrants— were deployed to the streets of San Antonio on Tuesday, May 31 in order to get leads concerning this incident.

Tactical Analysis: Derived from news photos of the crime scene and satellite imagery. Kill zone was established at a traffic signal going forward toward I-410 bridges underpass; channeled avenue of approach/confined terrain on Rigsby Road going forward. Location is also well suited for E&E (escape and evasion) of engaging forces (I-410 and 87). The targeted killing appears to have occurred via shots entering the passenger side of the patrol vehicle that struck the officer on the right side of his body. This places the law enforcement officer at an immediate tactical disadvantage in his response since he would be required to shoot through the passenger side of his vehicle to return fire. The targeted killing appears to have been conducted in a tactically proficient manner. TTPs/Weaponry/ Ford F-150 pickup truck (of interest) appears consistent with cartel operations in Northern Mexico.

Significance: Officer Safety Issues; Reward Amount/Mass Warrant Approach; Psychological Warfare/Insurgent Tactics (If determined to have cartel linkages); Cartel Violence Spillover (If determined to have cartel linkages).

Source(s):

"Search Continues For Sergeant's Killer - Investigators Working Full-Time To Find Sgt. Kenneth Vann's Killer" - Tim Gerber, KSAT 12 News, Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Officers Hope Warrant Roundup Leads To Info In Sergeant's Death: 10 Agencies Join Efforts In Warrant Roundup" - David Sears, KSAT 12 News, Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Reward For Info On Vann's Death Raised To $127K: FBI Offering $50,000, In Addition To $77,000 Already Raised" - KSAT 12 News, Tuesday, May 31, 2011 (UPDATED: June 1, 2011)

"Mexican Drug Link Probed in Ambush Murder of Texas Lawman" - Borderland Beat, Tuesday, May 31, 2011 | Borderland Beat Reporter Ovemex. Original Reuters Link

"Slain Sergeant's Widow Speaks Out: Yvonne Vann Asks For Public's Help Solving Husband's Slaying" - Jessie Degollado, KSAT 12 News, Monday, May 30, 2011

"Suspect Who Gunned Down Deputy Remains At-Large: Sgt. Kenneth Vann Shot, Killed Early Saturday Morning" - Simon Gutierrez, KSAT 12 News, Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Bexar County Deputy Slain in 'Senseless' Ambush" (See crime scene photos/video) - Associated Press, WFAA.com, May 28, 2011

Mexican cartel linkages to this incident are currently being investigated but have not been confirmed by US Law Enforcement

Dr. Robert J. Bunker

Mexican Cartel Tactical Notes

Fri, 05/27/2011 - 6:25pm

Here is a great 2 minute video ("Rival gunmen clash in Nayarit: 28 deaths reported") from a Mexican news station posted on YouTube via Borderland Beat. The video displays an engagement aftermath - that would be dead cartel foot soldiers in body armor/tactical gear.

 

We don't usually see many such body armor images. Since we are getting armored cars showing up more and more in Northern Mexico along with all the military infantry weapons (frag grenades et al) the need for body armor should come as no surprise.

Also -- apparently a Mexican Federal Police helicopter was engaged by Knight's Templar small arms fire and forced to land yesterday. See "Knights Templar attack Federal Police helicopter in Michoacan".

Dr. Robert J. Bunker