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News (Media Awareness Project) - Mexico: Gov't Choppers Under Fire In Mexico Drug War
Title:Mexico: Gov't Choppers Under Fire In Mexico Drug War
Published On:2012-01-16
Source:Denver Post (CO)
Fetched On:2012-01-17 06:01:51

MEXICO CITY-The Mexican armed forces and prosecutors have suffered at
least 28 gunfire attacks on helicopters in the five years since the
government launched an offensive against drug cartels, according to
official documents made public Monday.

The attacks show the increasing ferocity of Mexico's drug gangs, and
also suggest support for what the Mexican government has said in the
past: that 2010 may have been the worst year for the upward spiral in

In the first two years of the drug war, reporting government agencies
such as the air force, navy and Attorney General's Office reported no
chopper attacks. But in 2008, four helicopters were hit by gunfire,
wounding at least one officer aboard.

In 2009, bullets struck six government helicopters in the rotors, side
doors or motor compartments. All the craft were apparently able to
land safely.

However, 2010 was the worst year for helicopter attacks, with 14 hit
and one crew member wounded. Some craft had as many as seven bullet
holes in them when they landed, with rounds going through windshields,
fuselages, rotors and even landing gear.

In 2011, only three helicopters were hit by gunfire, but the number is
almost certainly higher. The federal police refused to release data on
attacks on its craft, but publicly acknowledged that on May 24,
suspected cartel gunmen opened fire on a federal police chopper,
hitting two officers and forcing the craft to land, though officials
insisted it had not been shot down.

Federal police said the pilot in that incident landed "to avoid any
accident." The Russian-made Mi-17 touched down about 3.5 miles (6
kilometers) from the shooting scene in the western state of Michoacan.
Two officers aboard suffered non-life-threatening wounds.

Mexico has long used helicopters in anti-drug operations. While
security forces have updated their helicopter fleet in recent years,
they have also retired some older craft, so the total number of
choppers would not account for the variation in attacks.

The newspaper Milenio originally requested the attack reports through
a freedom of information request, and the reports were independently
accessed by The Associated Press.

Mexican drug gangs have long strung steel cables around opium and
marijuana plantations to try to bring down police and military
helicopters. In 2003, in what prosecutors said was the first fatal
attack of its kind by drug traffickers in Mexico, gunmen guarding an
opium-poppy plantation shot down two police helicopters, killing all
five agents aboard.

But those attacks were infrequent compared to what's occurred since 2008.

Overall drug-related killings rose 11 percent in the first nine months
of 2011, when 12,903 people were killed, compared to 11,583 in the
same period of 2010, the office said. But the Attorney General's
Office found one small consolation: "It's the first year (since 2006)
that the homicide rate increase has been lower compared to the
previous years."

Drug-related killings jumped by 70 percent for the same nine-month
period of 2010 compared to January to September 2009, when 6,815
deaths were recorded.

The carnage continued Monday, when seven gunmen were killed in a
pre-dawn shootout with police on a highway in the city of Cuernavaca,
south of Mexico City.

A federal police officer was recovering from a gunshot wound to the
foot following the confrontation.

The prosecutors' office in the central Mexican state of Morelos says
the gunmen belonged to an organized crime gang, but did not say which one.

"Organized crime" in Mexico generally refers to drug cartels, and
remnants of the Beltran Leyva cartel have been fighting for control of

Prosecutors said the gunmen were traveling in three stolen vehicles
when police confronted them early Monday.
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