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Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #24

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Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #24: Gendarmerie Ambushed in Ocotlan, Jalisco State by Narco Commando—5 Killed, 8 Wounded

Robert J. Bunker

Key Information: Ulises Zamarroni (Agence France Presse), “Mexico ambush kills 10, including 5 federal police.” The Daily Star. 20 March 2015, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/World/2015/Mar-20/291626-mexico-ambush-kills-10-including-5-federal-police.ashx.

Guadalajara, Mexico: A gang ambush on federal police in western Mexico killed five officers, three suspects and two bystanders in the deadliest day for the country's new gendarmerie.

The attack took place late Thursday as the seven vehicles carrying the paramilitary gendarmerie officers were on patrol in Ocotlan, Jalisco state, federal police said in a statement.

Eight other officers were wounded, including one in serious condition in the town of 93,000 people.

It was the deadliest shooting for the gendarmerie, a 5,000-strong unit modeled after European military-like police forces that President Enrique Pena Nieto launched last year to protect key economic sectors from organized crime.

“We have regrettably had minor losses of one officer in some other events,” but never so many in a single attack, a federal official told AFP.

A gendarmerie commander deployed in Jalisco said the officers were checking on reports of an attack on municipal police when they were ambushed.

The police statement said the officers were on patrol around 9:15 pm (0315 GMT) when a vehicle approached the convoy and “without uttering a word, one of the individuals pulled out a large weapon and shot at the federal agents.”

The officers shot back and more gunmen arrived in about 10 other vehicles, firing in all directions.

The gendarmerie commander said the shootout lasted 30 minutes and took place on several streets.

“As a result of this clash, we report the deaths of five gendarmerie division officers and three civilians whose bodies had cartridge belts and tactical equipment and who presumably are part of organized crime,” the statement said.

“We regret the death of two civilians,” it added. The bodies were in the same firing line as the officers.

The suspects kept shooting as they fled the scene, leaving bullet holes in vehicles parked on several neighboring streets.

Authorities found seven “large weapons”—a term usually referring to assault rifles—and four grenades. The suspects left behind five vehicles.

The federal attorney general’s office will investigate the attack.

The statement did not specify the suspects’ criminal gang affiliation, but the region is home to the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel.

The group emerged in 2010 after the death of Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, alias “Nacho Coronel,” the top leader in Jalisco for the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel…

Photo 1:  Gendarmerie Vehicle Caught in Ambush

Source: En el enfrentamiento, ocho agentes resultaron heridos, uno de gravedad. (Ulises Ruiz/EFE). In “Rinden homenaje a gendarmes caídos en Jalisco.” Milenio. 21/3/2015, http://www.milenio.com/policia/homenaje_gendarmes_caidos-balacera_gendarmeria_ocotlan_0_485351612.html.

Photo 2: Gendarmerie Officers Killed

Source: División De Gendarmería - Policía Federal, En memoria a nuestros Gendarmes... Que hoy ya forman parte del Gran Ejercito Celestial... 22 March 2015, https://www.facebook.com/Div.Gpf/photos/. [For Public Distribution].

Photo 3:  Gendarmerie Equipment Example

Source: División De Gendarmería - Policía Federal, “Buenas Tardes Comunidad y Gendarmes! Espero se encuentren de lo mejor. Ya es miércoles! A darle con todo el animo! Dios siempre vaya con ustedes en el camino, les mando un abrazo! #Camelia.” 21 January 2015,  https://www.facebook.com/Div.Gpf/photos/. [For Public Distribution].

Photo 4: Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) Foot Soldiers

Source: Nuevo Comunicado del Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), Youtube, 23 March 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvc6AUtrRUI.

Who: Mexican drug gang/cartel—assumed to be the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación [CJNG]).

What: Ambush initiated by Mexican drug gang/cartel against the Gendarmerie, Federal Police (División De Gendarmería, Policía Federal).

When:  Thursday night 19 March 2015 from about 9:15 to 9:45 PM.

Where: In a neighborhood of Octolan in the Mexican state of Jalisco which is about 50 miles south-east of Guadalajara.

Why:  To drive the Gendarmerie out of drug gang/cartel held territories in order to protect this turf from Mexican federal government interference so that illicit economic activities—including extortion and street taxation—may continue; ensure cartel impunity and quasi-political control over cartel controlled lands.

Synopsis: A convoy of seven vehicles containing Gendarmerie, militarized Federal Police, were engaged in a nighttime patrol of Octolan—a town controlled by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).  The convoy received a report that local (municipal) police were being attacked and responded to the incident. As the convoy passed a white car parked on the side of road at 9:15 PM, a cartel gunman inside of it opened fire with a machine gun on the passing Gendarmerie vehicles and their occupants. Immediately upon execution of the planned ambush, about 10-12 cartel vehicles drove up and surrounded the convoy. Cartel gunmen opened fire with assault weapons and also lobbed fragmentation grenades at the Gendarmerie unit. The engagement between the opposing forces lasted for about 30 minutes and spilled onto several streets with nearby buildings and vehicles being hit by gunfire. While not mentioned in news reports, it is assumed that responding Federal Police and/or Military units in the area helped to drive the attackers away. Reportedly 2,000 shell casings were said found at the primary ambush scene. Five Gendarmerie were killed, 8 wounded, and a number of their vehicles were heavily damaged. Three cartel gunmen (wearing cartridge belts and tactical gear) and two (or three) civilians were also killed in the firefights. Mexican authorities recovered 7 large weapons (e.g. assault rifles), 4 fragmentation grenades, and 5 vehicles belonging to the cartel gunmen. 

Analysis: This is the first incident in which President Enrique Pena Nieto’s new 5,000 person strong Gendarmerie—established in August 2014 to combat economic crime—has suffered a large loss of personnel at the hands of cartel forces.  It supports the ‘criminal insurgency’ view of cartel activities as opposed to more traditional organized crime perspectives. Criminals, even organized ones, will typically seek to avoid direct confrontations with the police. They do not seek to supplant sovereign state authority or institutions or attack governmental forces like an insurgent force would do.  The incident is not unique. Numerous ambushes of Mexican police by cartel criminal-soldiers have taken place over the years. In one incident in February 2013 in Apaxtla, Guerrero, 9 state police officers were killed and 1 wounded. In that incident, 30 cartel gunmen in 10 vehicles ambushed the police at 9:30 PM on the road leading to Tepoxtepec.  After a 20-minute long firefight, responding police units were able to drive the cartel force away. In another incident in March 2012 on a road leading to Teloloapan, Guerrero, a group of state and local officers traveling in 6 pickups were attacked by a narco commando. The ambush resulted in 12 officers killed and 11 wounded.  

Significance:  Ambush, Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación; CJNG (Probable), Cartel Tactics, Gendarmerie, Insurgency  

References

Associated Press, “12 Mexico police officers killed while investigating beheadings of 10 people in drug-related violence.” New York Daily News. 19 March 2012, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/12-mexico-police-officers-killed-investigating-beheadings-10-people-drug-related-violence-article-1.1047095.

Associated Press, “Mexico creates special federal force of 5,000 gendarmes to combat widespread economic crime.” Fox News. 22 August 2014, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/08/22/mexico-creates-special-federal-force-5000-gendarmes-to-combat-widespread/.

División De Gendarmería - Policía Federal, “Buenas Tardes Comunidad y Gendarmes! Espero se encuentren de lo mejor. Ya es miércoles! A darle con todo el animo! Dios siempre vaya con ustedes en el camino, les mando un abrazo! #Camelia.” 21 January 2015,  https://www.facebook.com/Div.Gpf/photos/. [For Public Distribution].

División De Gendarmería - Policía Federal, En memoria a nuestros Gendarmes... Que hoy ya forman parte del Gran Ejercito Celestial... 22 March 2015, https://www.facebook.com/Div.Gpf/photos/. [For Public Distribution].

“Gunmen kill 9 police officers in southern Mexico.” Fox News Latino. 7 February 2013, http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2013/02/07/gunmen-kill-police-officers-in-southern-mexico/.

Aníbal Vivar Galván, “Confirma fiscal once muertes en enfrentamiento en Ocotlán.” Cronica Jalisco. 20 March 2015, http://www.cronicajalisco.com/notas/2015/39762.html.

“Rinden homenaje a gendarmes caídos en Jalisco.” Milenio. 21/3/2015, http://www.milenio.com/policia/homenaje_gendarmes_caidos-balacera_gendarmeria_ocotlan_0_485351612.html.

Ildefonso Ortiz, “Cartel Ambush Kills Five Mexican Federales, Three Hitmen and Two Bystanders.” Brietbart. 22 March 2015, http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2015/03/22/cartel-ambush-kills-five-mexican-federales-three-hitmen-and-two-bystanders/.

Reuters, “10 Killed in Ambush of Mexican Police Convoy.” VOA News. 20 March 2015, http://www.voanews.com/content/gang-ambush-mexican-police-convoy/2689386.html.

Reuters and Christopher Brennan, “Thirty-minute gunfight kills 11, including five police and three bystanders, after ambush on Mexican anti-gang officers.” Daily Mail. 22 March 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3005001/Gunfight-kills-10-ambush-Mexican-police.html.

Ulises Zamarroni (Agence France Presse), “Mexico ambush kills 10, including 5 federal police.” The Daily Star. 20 March 2015, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/World/2015/Mar-20/291626-mexico-ambush-kills-10-including-5-federal-police.ashx.

Categories: El Centro

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).