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'Narco tank' is latest find in cartels' armored vehicles

May 25, 2011 | 12:09 pm

Narco tank ford f-series pickuptrucks

Authorities in the Mexican state of Jalisco have discovered a so-called narco tank, an abandoned armored vehicle believed to have been used by drug cartels. It looks as though it belongs in a "Terminator" movie.

The "narco tank" was seized after a series of deadly shootouts (link in Spanish) between local police and unidentified gunmen over the weekend near the border with Zacatecas state. The central-western region of Mexico has seen an uptick in drug-related violence in recent months due to an internal split in the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

The "narco tank," reportedly a 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty truck, was radically altered, with plates of armor and a gun turret. From the website PickupTrucks.com:

As you can see, it's a one-of-a-kind armored up-fit. The front bumper has a folding battering ram -- which we call the "man-ram" -- and sloping metal plates have been welded to almost every surface. The cargo box is fully enclosed with gun ports and a protected turret that can rotate to spot rival drug cartels or Mexican government troops.

The vehicle found in Jalisco is similar to other heavily armored trucks and cars that have been used by the Zetas and Gulf cartels in confrontations with the military. One recently seized in Ciudad Mier, in Tamaulipas, was nicknamed "El Monstruo 2011."

The Zetas and Gulf cartels are known to move around the territory they are warring over in military-style uniforms that often make them indistinguishable from actual soldiers, confusing local residents. In addition to armored vehicles clearly built for battle, cartels employ homemade submarines to move narcotics from South America, as well as ultra-lightweight aircraft to smuggle drugs across the border into the United States, as reported by the Los Angeles Times' Richard Marosi.

Here's a video report in Spanish from Milenio TV  on the cartels' outfitted rides, including one that is referred to as a "narco Pope-mobile" for its tall and narrow armored shooting turret.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: An armored 2011 Ford F-Series pickup discovered by authorities in Jalisco state, Mexico. Credit: PickupTrucks.com

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