Mexican authorities have dismantled a communications network used by the Knights Templar drug gang in the Pacific state of Michoacan.
According to a statement released by the navy, the drug gang had a system of broadcast antennae and radio transmitters located in the mountains near the coast. These allowed for communications between the municipalities of Coahuayana, Coalcoman and Aquila, in the far west of Michoacan, near the border with Colima state (see map, below). The navy also dismantled a communications center which covered Lazaro Cardenas, on the eastern part of the state's coastline, and Arteaga, to the north.
See Caballeros Templarios communications network in a larger map
InSight Crime Analysis
The Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) is an offshoot of the Familia Michoacana gang which previously dominated Michoacan state. The navy’s statements about the Knights Templar's communications system is a sign of the sophistication and geographic range of this relatively young group, which announced its emergence in early 2011.
Similar communications systems belonging to the Zetas gang have been found in northern Mexico. Proceso reported in August that the authorities had dismantled some 15 communications installations belonging to the group in the last month, including a communications tower that was over 15 meters tall.
These systems allow groups like the Zetas and the Knights Templar to coordinate operations and to track the movements of the security forces. To counter this, military personnel in the Knights' areas of influence carry radios tuned to frequencies used by the drug trafficking organization, and have been able to piece together their radio codes.
In order to build their communications networks, Mexican criminal organizations may be kidnapping technology professionals and forcing them to work. As part of an InSight Crime-coordinated project on modern-day slavery in the Americas, Animal Politico found evidence of a pattern of young engineers being abducted in Zetas territory in north Mexico.