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Oct 4, 2010 | 20:56 GMT

8 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Oct. 4, 2010

Mexico Security Memo

20 Tourists Kidnapped in Acapulco

A group of armed men traveling in four cars reportedly kidnapped 20 Mexican tourists in the Costa Azul neighborhood of Acapulco, Guerrero state, only 600 meters (about 650 yards) from the popular tourist spot of Costera Miguel Aleman, at around 4:30 p.m. local time Oct. 1. The victims were from a group of 22 tourists traveling in four vehicles from Morelia, Michoacan state. They had stopped near Cristobal Colon and Fernando de Magallanes streets while two individuals from the group sought lodging. The group consisted of mechanics, masons, painters and their families, but all were reportedly linked to the sale of scrap iron. While the two individuals sought a hotel, some 30 armed men in six SUVs took the remaining 20 tourists captive. The two remaining tourists did not contact Acapulco law enforcement authorities until the following morning. They said they saw the kidnappers, who were armed with assault rifles, line the victims against a wall before forcing them into the SUVs and departing the scene. Authorities have reportedly searched the tourists' four vehicles for clues regarding who carried out the kidnapping. The federal attorney general's office has since opened two separate cases in Michoacan and Guerrero states and solicited the help of the federal police, naval and army intelligence branches in the region to help find the 20 kidnapped tourists. Acapulco has been the most violent of Mexico's major tourist destinations for several years now. Multiple drug trafficking organizations have laid claim to the territory or have significant operations in the city and the surrounding region. The port of Acapulco is not traditionally a major commercial shipping hub, but a tremendous amount of boat traffic travels in and out of Acapulco Bay and the surrounding waters and lagoons, making it an ideal location for shipments of cocaine and other narcotics. La Familia Michoacana (LFM), the Sinaloa Federation, and the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) and its factions have all fought for control of the city, but violence previously had been limited to people connected to organized criminal activities. Though Mexican authorities have yet to name suspects in the case, the show of force and the manner in which these 20 tourists were taken bears the hallmarks of an organized crime group. Large organized crime groups tend to carry out kidnapping for ransom when they need quick cash to sustain operations. Recently, elements of the BLO operating in the city have experienced major setbacks in terms of leadership and operational capability, suggesting it might have played a role. That the group of tourists hailed from Morelia, Michoacan — the home base of LFM, BLO's main rival in Acapulco — may also have played a role in this incident.

Monterrey Grenade Attacks

A string of grenade attacks in the Monterrey metropolitan area late the week of Sept. 27 capped a week of similar attacks in other hot spots along the South Texas-Mexico border. Early in the week, a group of armed men threw a fragmentation grenade at the facade of the Public Security Secretariat building in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, late Sept 27. Later, two people were injured when a group of armed men threw a grenade outside city hall in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, the afternoon of Sept. 29. Then, the Monterrey area saw three incidents in which fragmentation hand grenades detonated near security infrastructure or diplomatic facilities the evening of Oct. 1. The first occurred near a prison facility, the second near a federal courthouse — injuring a guard outside the facility — and the third near the U.S. Consulate. The following night, a group of armed men in two trucks reportedly threw a hand grenade into a group of people walking outside the Guadalupe (part of the Monterrey metro area) city hall at around 11:15 p.m. Oct. 2. The blast, which hit a popular town square, injured between 15 and 20 people, several of whom were children. The grenade attacks all occurred in territory disputed by Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel and its allies in the New Federation. Mexican authorities have not specified who they think carried out the attacks. Los Zetas were implicated in a similar grenade attack during the annual El Grito celebration in Morelia, Michoacan state, in 2008. Eight people were killed and more than 100 were injured in that incident. While nothing suggests Los Zetas carried out this attack, a recent Mexican naval operation in Matamoros and Reynosa netted nearly 30 members of the Gulf cartel, a large arms cache and several hundred thousand dollars and pesos. This would be motivation enough for the Gulf cartel to lash out against government targets, but the Gulf cartel has not been known to target civilians indiscriminately. Regardless of who is responsible, these incidents continue to underscore the increasing level of insecurity in the Monterrey metro area and in northeastern Mexico in general. As this insecurity persists, we can expect to see criminal groups further exploit the civilian population for territorial and financial gains, especially if both groups continue to experience operational losses. (click here to view interactive map)

Sept. 27

  • Unidentified gunmen attacked the Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, Public Security Secretariat office with a grenade. No injuries were reported and the building was only slightly damaged.
  • One soldier and four suspected cartel gunmen were killed during a firefight in the municipality of Coahuayana, Michoacan state.
  • Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a university student from the parking lot of the Valle de Atemajac University in Guadalajara, Jalisco state.

Sept. 28

  • Federal police announced the arrest of suspected La Linea cell leader Jose Ivan Contreras Lumbreras in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. Contreras is believed to have participated in a July 15 car bomb attack.
  • Three people were injured in a firefight between members of two labor unions in Boxite, Mexico state. The two unions were competing for contracts in road construction.
  • Unidentified gunmen in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state, killed a father and son during an ambush on their vehicle.

Sept. 29

  • Two people were injured in a grenade attack on the city hall in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state.
  • Three unidentified people in a vehicle were killed in a firefight with soldiers in Gomez Palacio, Durango state. One of the vehicle's occupants was arrested after attempting to flee.
  • Four suspected cartel gunmen were killed in a firefight with soldiers in Cerralvo, Nuevo Leon state. Soldiers freed four people in a separate operation against suspected kidnappers in Cerralvo.

Sept. 30

  • One person was killed during a firefight between unidentified people in a bar in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state.
  • Authorities announced the arrests of six suspected LFM members believed involved in carjackings in Salamanca, Guanajuato state. The suspects allegedly belonged to an LFM cell that operated in the municipalities of Yuriria, Moroleon and Uriangato.
  • Four policemen were kidnapped from a bar in Netzahualcoyotl, Mexico state, and later shot and dumped into a nearby river. One of the victims survived.

Oct. 1

  • Soldiers in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, killed two suspected cartel gunmen and seized 4,000 rounds of ammunition and 20 kilograms (about 44 pounds) of cocaine.
  • Police at the Mexico City International Airport arrested a man who had swallowed 81 capsules of cocaine. The suspect was initially screened for nervous behavior during a document inspection.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents discovered a suspected smuggling tunnel in Nogales, Arizona. The tunnel extended approximately 15 meters into the U.S. side of the border.

Oct. 2

  • The Mexico City attorney general's office announced the arrests of two people allegedly responsible for the murder of the Mexico Roma patriarch on Sept. 27. Both suspects are members of the national Roma community.
  • Fourteen suspected members of criminal groups were killed in a firefight in the municipality of Otaez, Durango state.
  • The body of an unidentified man was found in the Quinta Velarde neighborhood of Guadalajara, Jalisco state. The body had a message attached to its stomach with a knife. The message attributed the crime to a group called "La Limpieza," which means "The Cleaning."
  • Twelve people were injured in a grenade attack near city hall in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state.

Oct. 3

  • Two people were killed and four others were injured in a firefight in Nextipac, Jalisco state. Several intoxicated state investigative agents were reportedly involved in the shooting.
  • Soldiers arrested eight suspected members of Los Zetas in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state. The suspects were arrested after a military patrol chased three vehicles attempting to flee in the Tamaulipas neighborhood.

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