MEXICO CITY — Terrifying video footage from a narco drone dropping bombs as people scatter below has gone viral in Mexico. The images, reportedly taken from the drone after it was shot down, show homemade explosives floating down toward scurrying people in the western state of Michoacan—the site of a bloody conflict between rival criminal groups.
The drone was reportedly operated by members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG for its Spanish acronym), according to local media. The CJNG has become one of the most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations in Mexico over the past dozen years or so.
The CJNG has been involved in a vicious dispute in the state of Michoacan with a coalition of local groups known as the United Cartels over the last few years. The violence has led to widespread displacement of civilians in various rural areas throughout the state.
The drone attack reportedly took place Monday in the Tepalcatepec municipality that straddles the border with the neighboring state of Jalisco, which the CJNG is named after. The founder of the Jalisco-based cartel—Nemesio Oseguera, aka El Mencho—grew up in Michoacan and has long wanted to control the state, crisscrossed by trafficking routes beginning at important sea ports.
The video shows slow-moving homemade bombs floating toward a ramshackle structure in a woody area, followed by explosions and people running in all directions. After about a minute, the video abruptly turns blurry and dizzying, as the drone presumably falls to the ground after reportedly being gunned down.
VICE World News could not independently verify the authenticity of the widely shared video clip.
It's still unclear who the victims of the drone attack were. Mexican newspaper El Universal claimed they were an encampment of displaced people from a different town in Michoacan called El Bejuco. La Jornada, another prominent Mexican newspaper, suggested that the people under attack were members of a local self-defense militia. The newspaper cited an anonymous source saying that at least one person was injured and there were no reports of deaths.
Weaponized drones have appeared in Mexico's drug war since at least 2017, when police in the central state of Guanajuato arrested members of a criminal group with unmanned aerial devices fitted with explosives. Their use has proliferated since then, especially in Michoacan. In April, a drone allegedly operated by members of the CJNG or a rival criminal group dropped bombs on a local police headquarters near the town of Aguililla, injuring two cops. Aguililla is the hometown of El Mencho and is roughly 50 miles north from where Monday’s attack took place.
The CJNG is known for its impressive arsenal of weapons and homemade tanks which fighters have shown off on videos that have gone viral as well. The CJNG has also been linked to a trafficking ring that imported weapons accessories sourced from the U.S. via eBay.