MEXICO CITY — More than a dozen vehicles filled with cartel gunmen rolled into the northern city of Caborca early Wednesday morning, leading to an hourslong shootout, two deaths, and at least five people kidnapped.
Footage of the attack quickly spread across social media with loud gunshots in the background. Another grainy security video shows a parade of trucks, jeeps, and what appears to be a homemade tank moving as a convoy through the city. A third video, apparently shot by armed cartel members themselves at a gas station, shows the vehicles marked with white Xs while holding large weapons.
By morning, authorities announced that they had repelled the cartel caravan, but two died during the violence and several people had been kidnapped. The dead have not been named.
The border state of Sonora, where the attack took place, has been ravaged by violence connected to the fragmentation of cartels in the area over the past decade. It’s believed that several groups work in the state, including factions of the Sinaloa Cartel, remnants of the Juarez Cartel, and both smaller gangs who work independently or are affiliated with other larger groups.
Another major player in the region, sometimes called the Caborca Cartel, is allegedly run by notorious 80s Guadalajara Cartel member Rafael Caro Quintero. Caro Quintero spent over twenty years in prison for his involvement in the murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena before leaving prison on a technicality in 2013. His release outraged U.S. officials who hoped for his extradition when he finished his sentence in Mexico, especially after Caro Quintero disappeared and allegedly re-entered the drug trafficking game.
There have been conflicting reports about who the armed men are affiliated with. One video shows them shouting the name of “Los Pelones.” Los Pelones, originally a Sinaloa Cartel splinter group, have been linked to Caro Quintero by Mexican media over the past few years. Another video shows them yelling that the “Chapiza” has arrived, which prominent newspaper El Pais claimed means the gang worked for Los Chapitos—a Sinaloa Cartel faction ran by the sons of incarcerated drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The authorities have not confirmed who was behind the attack.
The conflicts between various groups have seen the state experience extremely high levels of violence and Caborca, roughly 65 miles south of Arizona, has been one of the worst hit.
Caborca Mayor Abraham Mier Nogales released a statement Wednesday saying that he recognized the attack “exceeded the level of response of the police corporations, since we were not able to prevent these unfortunate events.”
The municipality also announced that schools would be closed for the rest of the week, and suggested that businesses close at 10 p.m.
“We are disturbed by the violent events that we Caborquenses experienced this Wednesday morning, where unfortunately there were human losses and missing youth,” said the mayor. “We know that among these there are good people who have nothing to do with organized crime, we call on their captors to have mercy and return these young people alive.”
Police scrambled to find the kidnapped in the hours following, which included the 23-year-old son of local journalist Sebastián Manríquez. On Thursday, the Sonora authorities announced that three of the five kidnapped had been found unharmed, including Sebastián Manríquez Jr. They also arrested three men with guns and stolen vehicles since the violence.
María del Río Sánchez, Sonora Security Chief, announced Thursday that the Mexican army deployed 200 soldiers as reinforcements that will now work with state authorities and the national guard in northern Sonora.