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Escalating Threat: Jalisco cartel war against a coalition of local gangs in Mexico


In a concerning development, the Mexican army has revealed an alarming surge in the utilization of roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), particularly through bomb-dropping drones, by drug cartels. As of 2023, there have been 42 reported cases of injuries to soldiers, police, and suspects due to IEDs, a notable increase from the 16 incidents reported in 2022.

Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval provided these figures, although it's suspected that the actual numbers could be higher, as they only account for those wounded by explosive devices. This year alone, at least one National Guard officer and four state police officers lost their lives in separate explosive attacks.

The utilization of bomb-dropping drones has shown a remarkable escalation, a tactic hitherto unknown in Mexico until 2020. So far this year, a staggering 260 incidents involving such drones have been recorded, with some regions, particularly in Michoacan, experiencing near-daily attacks.

The year 2023 has also witnessed the discovery of six car bombs, a significant rise from just one in the previous year. While car bombs have been sporadically employed in northern Mexico in the past, this recent increase highlights the evolving tactics of these drug cartels.

In total, 556 improvised explosive devices, encompassing roadside, drone-delivered, and car bombs, were identified in 2023. Since the current administration's inception in December 2018, the army has detected a total of 2,803 such devices. The armed forces are actively collaborating with civilian authorities to defuse and dismantle these devices used by organized crime groups.

The state of Michoacan has borne the brunt of this threat, with 1,411 explosive devices discovered there during the current administration. This region has been marked by a protracted, violent conflict between the Jalisco cartel and local gangs. Guanajuato and Jalisco are the other states where a significant number of explosive devices have been located.

The figures provided do not clearly distinguish between functional and failed explosive devices. Many of these homemade devices seem to be based on online tutorials and often use easily obtainable materials like black powder or stolen blasting compounds from mines.

The severity of this issue was underscored by a coordinated series of roadway bombs in July, orchestrated by a drug cartel in western Mexico, which led to the deaths of four police officers and two civilians. This incident was seen as a deliberate attack on law enforcement personnel.

The Jalisco drug cartel, labeled by the U.S. Department of Justice as one of the world's top five dangerous transnational criminal organizations, is suspected of being behind some of these explosive attacks. Their proficiency in using improvised explosive devices and bomb-dropping drones has raised concerns about the capabilities of these cartels.

The urgency of the situation was highlighted further when, in June, another cartel employed a car bomb to kill a National Guard officer in Guanajuato. In 2022, explosives wounded 10 soldiers in Michoacan and claimed the life of a civilian in the same state.

The escalating use of bomb-dropping drones and other improvised explosive devices by drug cartels presents a grave security challenge for Mexican authorities, demanding innovative strategies to counter this evolving threat.


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