May 1, 2015 Jalisco attacks

May 1, 2015 Jalisco attacks
Part of Mexican Drug War
Jalisco en México.svg
State of Jalisco in Mexico
DateMay 1, 2015
6:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (approximately)
LocationJalisco (most attacks); some parts of Colima, Nayarit, Michoacán, and Guanajuato (in western Mexico)
Caused byAttempted capture of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (alias "El Mencho")
Parties to the civil conflict

On May 1, 2015, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) carried out a series of attacks in Jalisco and four of its adjacent states to prevent the capture of their suspected leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (alias "El Mencho"). The operation began early that morning in Villa Purificación, where four Mexican Air Force and Federal Police helicopters spotted a CJNG convoy protecting El Mencho. As one of the helicopters flew over the convoy, the CJNG members shot it down using rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers. 9 law enforcement officers died as a result of the attack, and multiple others were wounded. This incident was unprecedented in the Mexican Drug War since organized crime groups in Mexico had never successfully shot down an aircraft.

As the government extended its crackdown on the CJNG, it issued its highest security alert level and coordinated all three levels of government. The CJNG responded to the offensive by hijacking 39 buses, trucks, and cars throughout western Mexico, setting them on fire, and using them to block roads and highways in multiple locations. They also burned several gasoline stations, banks, and businesses. Most of the attacks took place in Guadalajara, Jalisco's capital and the second-largest urban area in Mexico. According to the government, the scale and level of coordination by the CJNG in this attack had not been displayed by other crime groups in Mexico.

The attacks garnered international headlines and reactions from the highest levels of the Mexican government, including President Enrique Peña Nieto, who promised that he would dismantle the CJNG's leadership structure. Mexico's National Security Commission placed significant attention on El Mencho, and publicly announced that they were making his arrest a priority. Over the course of a year, violence and homicides increased in Jalisco. However, as the government shifted its attention in 2016 to re-apprehend Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, once Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, the CJNG readjusted its strategy and toned down its violent methods.

Helicopter attack

Before dawn at around 6:30 a.m. on May 1, 2015, an armed convoy from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a criminal group based in Jalisco, made their way from Casimiro Castillo to Villa Purificación through several dirt roads.[1][2] The vehicles drove with their headlights off to avoid the attention of Mexican Air Force and the Federal Police (PF), who were doing an air surveillance of the area in four helicopters.[a][4] One of the vehicles was equipped with rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers.[b][1] As the helicopters flew over the convoy,[c] the CJNG units opened fire at them from the ground.[7] One of the helicopters, a Cougar EC725 carrying eighteen passengers, was hit on its tail and shot down with a Russian-made RPG-27 rocket launcher.[d] Once hit, the helicopter spun several times in the air as it tried to maneuver its way back into trajectory. It then fell at a distance from where it was struck and exploded.[e][11] The helicopter was shot six times and was hit twice;[12] the gunmen tried shooting down another helicopter, but they were unable to strike it with their RPG launchers.[8] The CJNG gunmen then made their way to where the helicopter crashed and attempted to execute any remaining living passengers. However, military reinforcements in the air prevented the criminal group from getting close to the collision scene and forced them to retreat.[f][14] Nine passengers were killed as a result of the airstrike: eight from the Mexican Army and one from the PF.[15] Some of the soldiers killed were part of the Cuerpo de Fuerzas Especiales, the elite and special forces unit of the Army.[16][17] The other passengers were taken to the Regional Military Hospitals in Guadalajara to receive medical attention.[g][20] Their health conditions were not made public.[15][21]

Though the death toll of the helicopter attack ended up at nine,[22] not all of them were recorded at once.[23] When the attack occurred, the Mexican government confirmed that three military men were killed.[24] They also stated that three additional Army soldiers remained missing,[h][25] while the remaining twelve passengers (ten from the Army and two from the PF) were recorded as wounded.[26] During the first 24 hours, their search was contained in a 100 metres (330 ft) radius, but investigators extended their search past that after they were unable to locate them.[27] For three days, the federal and state forces searched the area where the helicopter was attacked and where it landed to search for the missing passengers.[28] On May 4, the government confirmed that they located them.[29] They were able to identify their corpses by conducting DNA tests since their bodies were severely damaged and torn into pieces as a result of the helicopter's explosion.[30] This increased the death toll to six.[31] On May 6, the seventh passenger from the Army died of cardiac arrest as a result of the wounds he suffered from the helicopter's fall.[32] The following day, one of the PF passengers died from his wounds.[33] On May 10, the last victim of the attack, a soldier from the Army, died at a hospital. Authorities confirmed that four other passengers had been discharged from the hospital after treatment. Five more remained in the hospital receiving medical attention.[34]

Following the helicopter attack, the PF and military personnel cordoned the area and conducted a thorough search of the premises.[35] They initially discovered four abandoned vehicles that they suspected were owned by the perpetrators.[36][37] In the vehicles, investigators discovered military uniforms with the insignias "CJNG Special Forces High Command" with five embedded stars.[i][12] No immediate arrests were made.[39] The Army seized several weapons from the CJNG, including 15 assault rifles, 6 handguns, 2 RPG launchers, 2 LAW rocket launchers, 10 rocket launcher missiles, 5 hand grenades, 92 chargers for multiple weapons, and 3,800 cartridges of different weapon calibers.[40] Several of these weapons were illegal for civilians in Mexico because they were of exclusive use for the Mexican Armed Forces. Authorities also seized radio communication equipment, several bullet-proof vests, and nine vehicles. One of the vehicles was equipped with tools to carry a RPG launcher. Investigators handed these items over to the SEIDO, Mexico's anti-organized crime investigatory agency.[41] In addition to notifying the press of the seized items, they also stated that they were planning to carry out a homage to honor their comrades who were killed in the helicopter attack.[42] At the helicopter collision scene, several Army soldiers made a cross with wires and tied it to a tree close to where their comrades died. The cross had the logo of the special forces unit.[17]

For almost 24 hours, the area where the helicopter was shot down remained abandoned. The smog from the helicopter's crash lasted a few hours, and several of the helicopter's pieces scattered as far as 250 metres (820 ft) from each other. The Army was the first group to arrive at the scene and cordoned the area. They erected three camps in surrounding premises and closed down the perimeter to allow investigators to collect evidences of the attack. Villa Purificación's entrances and exists were fortified with Army checkpoints; the soldiers conducted car searches to vehicles leaving and entering the town. Other Army units patrolled the streets of the town and nearby highways in search of the suspects. Besides Villa Purificación, which had the largest military presence, the two other towns with the largest Army presence were Autlán and Unión de Tula.[1]

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