Video captures alleged drug cartel drone bombing rivals

MMexican cartel drone bomb

Videos have emerged showing what reports describe as a notorious Mexican drug cartel’s drone dropping several bombs on human targets. The footage comes in the wake of escalating violence – and increasing sophistication of aerial attacks – in Mexico as gangs seek to dominate illegal but extremely lucrative narcotics trafficking.

Different forms of the video have circulated online, including media reports featuring shots taken from the drone as it drops bombs on a forest encampment, sending the people within to flee for safety. Other accounts include that footage before cutting to ground level to examine the damage to the targeted camp located in a cluster of trees. Virtually all coverage describes the aerial attack as the work of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (JNGC), reputed to be the most powerful and ruthless of Mexico’s drug gangs, and responsible for a wave of deadly violence in the same Michoacán state where the bombings occurred.

The most complete footage of the strike by the alleged drug cartel drone was uploaded in tweets by Conflicts News Worldwide, which included the aerial bombing footage as well as the UAV’s crash after presumably being hit from the ground by gunfire.

Formed in 2009, the JNGC is described as eager to expand its control of an estimated 30% of all drug activity in Mexico. Though its leadership was once loyal to the Sinaloa cartel, the capture and US jailing of that group’s chief, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, created a power vacuum the JNGC has since rushed to fill – then use as a base to attack and dominate rival groups in narcotics trafficking.

Deployment of drones by Mexican drug cartels isn’t new, but this week’s bombing indicates a rising degree of sophistication. Last April authorities decided to prosecute a pair of JNGC members who’d been arrested in possession of drone for suspected deployment in strikes. The decision came less than a week after two Mexican police officers in Michoácan were injured by a UAV carrying a limited charge of C4, and thought to have been flown into its human targets. 

But unlike drones used in those earlier attacks by JNGC and other drug cartels – to which small explosive payloads were crudely taped beneath – the UAV in this week’s video demonstrates its operators have created effective mechanisms for dropping multiple bombs from on high. That puts Mexico’s gangs on par with combatant groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine that have been increasingly using retail drones to deliver deadly aerial attacks.

The forest bombings Tuesday by the suspected drug cartel drone followed two reported explosive strikes Monday in towns around the Michoácan city of Tepalcatepec. Those were part of a surge of gang violence between rival groups, but which often take out innocent victims as a matter of course. The rising bloodshed has begun to empty some towns and cities to outlying areas like the forest bombed this week. Reports say the average of people killed in Michoacan from January to October 2021 were more than seven each day.

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