Mexican drug cartels have begun using weaponized drones in an effort to take out their rivals — one of the latest tactics in the drug wars that have plagued the Central American nation, according to reports.
The airborne attacks have become a common weapon for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel — Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, or CJNG in Spanish — which authorities believe controls one-third of the drugs that enter the US, to gain a larger foothold in the export of illegal drugs, according to a report by Forbes.
“The CJNG has been involved with such devices since late 2017 in various regions in Mexico,” Robert Bunker, director of research and analysis at C/O Futures, a California-based consulting firm, told Forbes.
“This cartel is well on its way to institutionalizing the use of weaponized drones,” Bunker said. “None of the other cartels appear to presently even be experimenting with the weaponization of these devices.”
Earlier this month a militia group formed by farmers in Michoacan reported finding two drones with C4 explosives and ball bearings strapped to them — and reported hearing explosions which they attribute to the devices, according to Mexico’s El Universal newspaper.
Three other CJNG drones packed with explosives were seized earlier in the year, among the weapons aimed at the rival Rosa de Lima cartel, the reports said.
In 2018, one of the armed devices was used to attack a senior Mexican official at his home Baja, California — in what authorities believe was a warning because the target was not home at the time.
And as early as 2017, four cartel members were arrested with a drone carrying a “potato bomb,” or an improvised hand grenade.
With commercial drones now widely available on the market, the only challenge for the sicarios is how best to weaponize them, Bunker said.
“The limiting factor is not so much the availability of military-grade explosives — commercial or homemade explosives can be substituted — but the basic technical knowledge necessary to create improvised explosives devices or IEDs.”
The armed gadgets are similar to armed “quadcopters” like one used in an assassination attempt on Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro in 2018, and less sophisticated versions of bomber drones used by ISIS and other radical groups in the Middle East since 2016, Forbes said.
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