Mexican army troops have taken control of Michoacan in west Mexico in the fight against a drug cartel stronghold by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes - also known as “El Mencho”. Deployed military squads cautiously moved in on Friday in the township of Aguililla as the area is rigged by landmines planted by rival gangs that surround the town.

According to ABC News, special army bomb squads equipped with metal detectors found dozens of explosive devices along the town’s roads as well as in several fields. Just last week, two mines exploded which resulted in the death of a local farmer who drove his pick-up truck over one and which has also injured his son. Another improvised explosive device (IED) injured several soldiers in recent weeks. This was the first time such IEDs have been successfully used against a military target in Mexico.

The said explosive devices were found to have the ability to be detonated by radio or a telephone signal apart from being triggered by pressure. Some were even discovered to be made of two vials filled with chemicals that would break and cause an explosive combustion when combined.

Aguililla, which is a town long dominated by Oseguerra-Cervantes and his Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is overrun by one of the most powerful drug kingpins in Mexico. The cartel has been involved in violent attacks and confrontations with the local Viagras gang in their fight to gain control over the town for years. It is believed to be behind brutal attacks on Mexican security forces including an ambush in 2015 which claimed the lives of 15 officers as well as an attempted assassination of Mexico City’s police chief two years ago.

Due to the continuing violence in Aguililla, hundreds of families have fled the area in fear and with the hope of migrating to the United States. The constant explosions from landmines and bomb-laded drones have caused much instability for locals, with rival gangs coveting the Michoacan state for its seaport and smuggling routes. The cartels find the area a perfect base for their illegal operations as they extort money from state farmers cultivating avocados and limes.

Aguililla is the native hometown of “El Mencho”. He was born in Naranjo de Chila and is a wanted criminal in both Mexico and the United States. His Jalisco cartel is now said to have a nationwide presence.

For the first time, Mexican army vehicles and troops have gained ground control of Aguililla with tanks and armed forces patrolling the entire town. Although cartels have been known to use trenches and homemade armored cars and pillboxes to maintain fear and control, the military bomb squad said the cartel’s bomb-armed drones have caused more terror in the Michoacan state compared to their landmines.

File picture of residents of the community of Aguililla
Residents of the community of Aguililla wait for the arrival of the Apostolic Nuncio Franco Coppola (out of frame) in Aguililla community, state of Michoacan, Mexico, on April 23, 2021. - The municipality of Aguililla is being threatened due to the confrontation of organized crime groups called the Jalisco Nueva Generacion Cartel (CJNG) and the Michoacan Family (now called Viagras). Photo by Enrique Castro/AFP via Getty Images

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