Drug cartel's seizure of town in southern Mexico leads to clashes between civilians, army

Drug cartel's seizure of town in southern Mexico leads to clashes between civilians, army

Soldiers attacked after trying to enter small border town in south held hostage by organized crime

By Jorge Antonio Rocha

MEXICO CITY (AA) - People who are reportedly residents of Frontera Comalapa in Mexico’s Chiapas state attacked soldiers and police officers with sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails Tuesday after members of state and federal agencies attempted to enter the town, which was recently taken over by an organized crime syndicate.

Local media reported that army troops, members of the National Guard and police officers attempted to bring peace to Frontera Comalapa, which borders Guatemala. ​​​​​​​

The attackers, who may be victims of forced recruitment by criminal organizations, have not been identified by authorities.

The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), leading factions of Mexico's underworld, have fought for control of the border region in Chiapas, a critical point for the drug trade, human trafficking and gun smuggling.

The battle for territory between criminal syndicates has created a war zone for the residents of Frontera Comalapa, who have suffered from murders and disappearances at the hands of hired killers.

Shootings where unarmed civilians are killed in the crossfire have been constant since May 22. According to local reports, violence in the municipality has increased alarmingly in the last week, with young people from various communities being forcibly recruited by criminals to assist in their control of the region and to push back security authorities.

The violence is constant even with the strong presence of the army in the region.

Within Frontera Comalapa, there is a National Guard headquarters, and only 24 kilometers (15 miles) away is the largest army base in the state.

According to the NGO Fray Bartolome de las Casas, caravans of vehicles carrying heavily armed men parade in front of the headquarters. The NGO has denounced the empowerment of the criminals due to the military's failure to protect the people, which has resulted in an exodus of residents trying to escape the violence.

"At least 3,000 people were displaced from their communities, some seeking temporary shelters, and others have been taking refuge in the mountains or some safe place for days. We are also informed that many families remain in their homes without being able to leave. They are locked in by the extreme terror they are living through. It has come to this under the mechanics of complicity and abandonment of the Mexican government," Fray Bartolome de las Casas said in a press release.

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