The recent downing of a government helicopter in Michoacán, Mexico could signal the re-emergence of what was once one of the country's most powerful criminal groups.
A helicopter belonging to the state government of Michoacán was shot down on September 6, killing the pilot and three police officers. According to local media reports and social media posts by Michoacán Gov. Silvano Aureoles, the aircraft was participating in an operation aimed at capturing members of the Knights Templar crime group.
The helicopter had reportedly arrived to support soldiers and federal and local police after they were called to the scene of an attempted kidnapping of a well-known agricultural businessman in the town of La Huacana.
When security forces reached the scene, a shootout ensued that ended in the death of Alonso Andrade Rentería, alias "La Papa." According to press reports, "La Papa" is the brother of Ignacio Andrade Rentería, alias "El Cenizo," a Knights Templar leader who was captured in February.
The incident marks the second helicopter shot down recently by a criminal organization in Mexico. In May 2015, the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) used a rocket-propelled grenade to bring down a military helicopter, killing nine people.
InSight Crime Analysis
If the Knights Templar were involved in the recent downing of the helicopter in Michoacán, it would suggest the group retains a significant presence in the area. After splitting off from the Familia Michoacana in 2011, the Knights Templar became a major player in Michoacán's criminal landscape. However, the cartel has been significantly weakened, and in February 2015 Mexican authorities captured its leader Servando Gomez, alias "La Tuta."
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Knights Templar
A recent report from Borderland Beat suggests the Knights Templar could indeed be making a comeback. The news outlet reports that militia-like groups known as "autodefensas" are organizing to confront the crime group. If this is the case, Michoacán could see a resurgence of the messy conflict between crime groups and autodefensas that shook the state during the heyday of the Knights Templar a few years ago. In fact, some evidence of this dynamic has already begun to emerge, as other recent reports have also sounded the alarm about Michoacán's autodefensas rearming themselves in order to combat organized crime.