Raids on ‘narco’ camps in Western Chihuahua leave three dead, 18 in custody

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Mexican army, state police join forces to disrupt Madera-Nuevo Casas Grandes drug corridor

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A task force led by the Mexican army has dismantled 12 clandestine bases used by members of drug cartels in Western Chihuahua, state officials said on Thursday.

Six of the camps were near the towns of Ignacio Zaragoza and San Buenaventura, less than 80 miles south of U.S. border. The other six were in hilly areas at the Chihuahua-Sonora stateline.

The region is a known drug-trafficking corridor into southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona, and has been the site of deadly gun battles between competing gangs. In early April, an ambush by a rival group left dead 19 alleged members of the Gente Nueva proxy of the Sinaloa cartel near the town of Madera.

Gen. Miguel Angel Hernandez, commander of the 5th Military Zone, said the Mexican army set up its own temporary base in the region in response to the drug activity.

“This has allowed us to locate camps that are used by organized criminal gangs to live and provide security for drug shipments,” Hernandez said in a teleconference. “They were camps of various sizes, the smallest being used by nine, 10 individuals, the largest could accommodate 30 to 40.”

This is one of the clandestine camps found by the Mexican army in Western Chihuahua. (photo courtesy State of Chihuahua)

The first narco camp was discovered on March 11; the last was found on June 18. Numerous parapets, foxholes, and fortifications were also found near the camps.

Gen. Miguel Angel Hernandez, commander of the Mexican Army’s 5th Military Zone (Border Report photo)

Soldiers, Chihuahua state police officers and members of the National Guard have used their base to scour the Madera-Largo and the Madera-Nuevo Casas Grandes corridors — very often on foot — effecting arrests, drug, vehicle and weapons seizures.

“We are trying to bring peace to such dangerous area. Soldiers and police officers have been shot at, returning fire and effecting the seizures and arrests,” Hernandez said. He described the guns and ammo seizures as “an arsenal with weapons similar to what the army uses.”

A total of 18 people have been arrested and three killed. Twenty-three vehicles have been seized as have 35 rifles, three grenades and eight tons of marijuana, he said.

The task force also found evidence of gun battles, with 800 spent bullet casings located at one site.

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