Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yesterday in Matamoros, Afghanistan

H/T to the Brownsville Herald for this report from the edge of the war zone - that is, from the northern side of the Mexican frontier, from which they could hear the rifle fire and grenades during a day-long series of firefights in Matamoros yesterday.

Notice that the battle was as much between competing drug cartels as it was against them and Mexican government forces. The cartels blocked streets to keep military vehicles out while they went toe-to-toe with each other, even calling in reinforcements from nearby Reynosa.

Gunfire and roadblocks were reported Wednesday evening in Matamoros as armed gunmen with the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas organization clashed with the Mexican military in a three-way confrontation, sources stated.

One of the international bridges to Brownsville was closed.

Tractor-trailers were used to block off various avenues in Matamoros, including Lauro Villar, Avenida Solidaridad, Avenida del Nino and other main thoroughfares, in an effort to keep military vehicles from getting through, according to a Mexican law enforcement official who asked not to be named for security reasons.

A source with the Mexican military who asked not to be named said authorities closed off Los Tomates-Veterans International Bridge in response to the violence.

Mexican Marines, army troops and federal police officers were deployed throughout the city as they responded to the various firefights, the source said.

Military helicopters were seen flying over the city as they provided air support to troops on the ground.

According to a source with firsthand knowledge of criminal activity in Matamoros, the violence began when members of the Zetas were seen trying to enter Matamoros and Gulf Cartel members went to confront them. Mexican authorities reportedly arrived shortly afterward.

The source said that several Gulf Cartel strike teams from Reynosa, including teams known as Los Zeros, Los M’s and Los Lobos, were sent to Matamoros to reinforce the Gulf Cartel.

Some sources have said that the Zetas are trying to take advantage of a perceived power vacuum in the Gulf Cartel since the recent death of Ezekiel "Tony Tormenta" Cardenas Guillen, one of the leaders of the cartel.

Wednesday’s violence in Matamoros reportedly began on Avenida del Nino and moved to Lauro Villar, one of the city’s main streets. From there it spread to other areas.

Reports Wednesday evening were that a prominent member of the Gulf Cartel was either captured or killed, but that could not be confirmed.

Residents in some areas of Brownsville said they heard grenade explosions and gunfire from across the border.

A resident of Matamoros who goes to work at 8:30 p.m. said employees of the company where she is employed were called and told not to report for work.

It was not known how many people were killed or injured in the violence.

On Monday, authorities had announced the capture of five men after an intense firefight on the outskirts of Matamoros. In that encounter, four police officers were injured, according to an official press release.

On Wednesday, it was announced that a series of military operations last weekend resulted in the capture of 12 men, reportedly members of the Gulf Cartel or the Zetas, and the seizure of arms and cash.

Some of the fighting centered around Plaza Fiesta, a part of town where, I believe, many U.S. and local Consulate employees live. It never ceases to amaze me that there is a full fledged, but mostly unrecognized, war going on within earshot of the United States.

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