Authorities searched for a third day Sunday for three Mexican army soldiers who disappeared after gunmen reportedly affiliated with a power new drug cartel shot down their helicopter. The attack Friday killed three other soldiers and wounded a dozen more as security forces attempted to crack down on the criminal syndicate known as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel in Mexico’s southern Jalisco state, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Mexican authorities are unsure what happened to the missing soldiers and have expanded the search area in their bid to locate them, Agence France-Presse. It’s unclear if cartel members managed to capture the soldiers.
Cartel members clashed with the Mexican army, federal and local police throughout Jalisco this weekend as the government tried to dismantle the organization, which turned Jalisco’s capital of Guadalajara into a quagmire of violence. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel used burned-out vehicles to block major roads and set fire to local banks and gas stations.
“A new and militarily powerful cartel is appearing, and opening up a new front in the war against drugs in Guadalajara and Jalisco,” security analyst Raul Benitez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico told the Journal.
Jalisco authorities have arrested 19 people in the violence, reports said. At least seven people died in the fighting.
The violence in Jalisco unfolded despite the Mexican government’s recent success in combating the once-powerful Knights Templar and Zeta cartels in neighboring territories. Jalisco cartel members were suspected in an April attack that killed 15 state police officers.
Nemesio Oseguera, known by the moniker “El Mencho,” purportedly leads the cartel, which has consolidated its power in recent months and established alliances with other crime syndicates on an international level. New Generation’s drug empire extends beyond Mexico to Europe, Australia and Asia, the Associated Press reports.
“Everything points to an increase in violence because there hasn’t been a cartel this strong in the state since the 1980s,” Jose Reveles, an author who has written extensively on Mexico’s drug networks, told the AP.