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Dec 20, 2010 | 23:38 GMT

8 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Dec. 20, 2010

Mexico Security Memo

IED Attack on Police in Nuevo Leon

A small improvised explosive device (IED) detonated around 1 p.m. Dec. 17 inside a sport-utility vehicle outside the Zuazua Public Security Secretariat offices (the equivalent of a municipal police station) in Zuazua, Nuevo Leon state. In addition to destroying the vehicle, the blast injured at least three people and damaged several surrounding vehicles. A message attributed to the Sinaloa Federation and Gulf cartel addressed to "Zeta Police" was found shortly thereafter near the site of the explosion that read, "The state of Nuevo Leon does not guarantee the security of its citizens in the state, and more than a thousand kidnappings are not reported for fear of the authorities. Eleven more car bombs are waiting to be detonated to bring justice for the kidnapped, for the police and corrupt officials are aware." Nuevo Leon authorities have been quick to say the claim of 11 more IEDs is false, but have offered little in the way of proof. Additionally, authorities have not officially said whether they believe area drug-trafficking organizations were involved in the attack, despite the very public message. This attack is the year's fifth successful deployment of an IED against a specified target in Mexico; one occurred in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, and three occurred near Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state. While there has not been any indication as to the composition or exact size of the device, photographic evidence of the blast scene indicates that the device was relatively small and on the scale seen with other devices deployed in the country this year. The enforcement arm of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) organization, La Linea, was responsible for the Juarez IED on July 15, and the group indicated after the attack that it would continue its "car bomb" campaign as long as the Federal Police continued to support the Sinaloa Federation, which the VCF accuses the police of doing. Despite these warnings, only one other IED was deployed in Juarez, a few weeks later, and the Mexican military was able to render it safe before it detonated. However, it appears from the message left near the scene and the geographic disparity between Juarez and Nuevo Leon that entirely different actors were responsible for the Dec. 17 incident. The message falls in line with the strategy pursued by the New Federation alliance. In the spring, elements of the New Federation began taking the fight against Los Zetas to their stronghold in the Monterrey metro region, targeting not only Los Zetas members and operatives but also their support network in the region, including local politicians and local and regional police. It remains to be seen whether the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf cartel will actually follow through with a sustained bombing campaign against law enforcement believed to be associated with Los Zetas. If the groups do follow through with their pledge to deploy 11 more IEDs, it would be a significant escalation in the tempo of these types of attacks. While IED attacks in the country thus far have been discriminating in their targeting, the imprecise nature of IEDs greatly increases the risk of civilian casualties.

Nuevo Laredo Prison Break

A prison break the morning of Dec. 17 at the Center for Social Readaptation (CERESO) in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, led to the escape of between 141 and 192 prisoners (the latest figure reported was 151). This is merely the latest in a string of prison breaks in Tamaulipas since January; the total number of prisoners having escaped in the state this year is more than 300. In the Dec. 17 escape, the prisoners (reportedly both federal and local), working with complicit guards, were able to exit the prison facilities through a service entrance into waiting vehicles. Additionally, the prison director was reported missing the morning of Dec. 17. Multiple source reports indicate Los Zetas were the primary orchestrators of the escape, with some STRATFOR sources saying Los Zetas' motivation was to augment their forces in the region. The prisoners were reportedly told that once released, they either must work for Los Zetas or be killed. Additionally, STRATFOR sources said the nephew of Los Zetas No. 2 Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales was one of the escapees from the CERESO unit. Los Zetas have experienced several setbacks throughout much of 2010, with several regional plaza bosses and numerous operatives being killed or apprehended. However, developments in the last few months have weakened the Gulf cartel and the New Federation's grip on Tamaulipas border region, and Los Zetas appear to be poised to regain some of their lost ground, particularly in the Reynosa and Matamoros regions. If the reported ultimatum for the freed prisoners is correct, this influx of forces for Los Zetas could provide the necessary resources to begin a campaign to retake these lost areas. However, the true number of prisoners that will actually go to work for Los Zetas remains to be seen; some likely will renege on their promise and slip back into Mexican society — only now with a bounty on their heads. (click here to view interactive map)

Dec. 13

  • Unidentified gunmen shot a man to death during a suspected kidnapping in the Jardines Universidad neighborhood of Guadalajara, Jalisco state.
  • The body of an unidentified person was discovered near Tlajomulco, Jalisco state. The body was wrapped in a blanket tied together with a string and had a bag over its head.

Dec. 14

  • Four police officers were reportedly shot to death by a fellow police officer in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The attacker later committed suicide.
  • Police found a decapitated body in the trunk of a car in the Ejidos de San Agustin neighborhood of Chimalhuacan, Mexico state. The victim's head had been placed on the trunk lid.
  • Two decapitated bodies were found on a soccer field in Huixquilucan, Mexico state.

Dec. 15

  • In a recorded message released to a TV station, La Familia Michoacana (LFM) leader Servando Gomez Martinez called on his followers to continue fighting and called for more marches against the federal government. Gomez Martinez also confirmed the death of Nazario Gomez in Michoacan state during the week of Dec. 13.
  • The dismembered body of a man was found in several bags in Guadalajara, Jalisco state. A handwritten sign near the victim attributed the crime to the Jalisco Cartel, New Generation.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the arrests of eight suspected members of LFM in Georgia and North Carolina. One of those arrested is believed to be the primary supplier of illegal drugs for LFM in Washington.
  • Unidentified gunmen shot and injured two police officers in Allende, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Authorities were alerted through an anonymous call about three boxes allegedly containing explosives that were placed near separate hospitals in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. The boxes contained clocks inside and were designed to give the appearance of being explosive devices.

Dec. 16

  • Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a police guard post in the Roma neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, but did not cause any injuries.
  • One suspected cartel gunman was killed and two bystanders were injured during a firefight between soldiers and gunmen in the La Estanzuela neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.

Dec. 17

  • Unidentified gunmen kidnapped two employees from the nightclub where they worked in Acapulco, Guerrero state. The victims were later discovered shot to death.
  • A decapitated head was discovered wrapped in cloth inside a bag outside a bar near Texcoco, Mexico state.
  • A car with explosives inside was detonated outside a police station in Zuazua, Nuevo Leon state. Approximately 151 inmates escaped from a prison in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The director of the prison was reported missing after the escape.

Dec. 18

  • Federal security forces arrested four police officers suspected of participating in an attack on other police forces in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state on Dec. 16. Ten other officers had been arrested Dec. 17 for their alleged participation in the attack.
  • An e-mail sent to news outlets by a group calling itself the "Ex-Mysterious Disappearers" announced that former legislator Diego Fernandez de Cevallos will be freed soon by his kidnappers.

Dec. 19

  • Unidentified gunmen forced security personnel to pull back from a crime scene where a decapitated body was present in Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. The gunmen reportedly arrived to recover the body.
  • Military authorities announced the seizure of a suspected methamphetamine lab in the municipality of Tuxpan, Jalisco state.
  • Authorities announced the arrest of suspected Colombian drug trafficker Jerson Enrique Camacho Cedeno in an unspecified part of Mexico. Camacho Cedeno is allegedly linked to Los Zetas.

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