Mexico City, May 14 IANS | 3 months ago

Police found a camp apparently used by the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel to train gunmen in western Mexico, officials said.


The "narcocamp" was discovered in a remote area in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains of Michoacan state near El Pitayo, a town outside the city of Tumbiscatio, a Michoacan Public Safety Secretariat spokesman told Efe.

The camp has a helipad that police suspect was used by the cartel for smuggling and other illegal activities, the spokesman said.

Solar panels were used to generate electricity for sleeping quarters, two kitchens and two other buildings at the camp.

State police found a makeshift firing range and a grave at the camp, but investigators have not yet checked for human remains.

The camp appears to have been abandoned recently, based on the fact that food was left behind and there are signs of activity, the spokesman said.

Investigators suspect the camp may have been used to train the gunmen who work for the cartel in Michoacan's 113 cities.

Servando Gomez Martinez, who took over the Caballeros Templarios cartel's leadership in March following the killing by Marines of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, was presumably in charge of the camp.

A high-level cartel member was arrested last weekend, officials said.

Hector Lopez Andrade, Gomez Martinez's right-hand man in the cities of Tumbiscatio and Arteaga, was arrested last Saturday, Alfredo Castillo, the federal commissioner for security and development in Michoacan, said.

Lopez was arrested along with 154 other people who were posing as members of a vigilante group in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas.

Authorities also announced the seizure of a ship carrying minerals that belonged to the cartel.

The Bets Vision, a Panamanian-flagged ship carrying nearly 100,000 tonnes of illegally mined iron ore, was seized in Manzanillo, a port city in Colima state, before it could sail for Zhoushan, China, Castillo said.

The cartel mined the iron ore in Michoacan illegally, officials said.

A total of 300,000 tonnes of iron ore valued at tens of millions of dollars have been seized by authorities since late April.

(Posted on 14-05-2014)