Mexican cartel filmed using heavy weapons to free drug lord’s son

A cartel gunman fires a high calibre rifle, screenshot from a video posted on Twitter, October 17.
A cartel gunman fires a high calibre rifle, screenshot from a video posted on Twitter, October 17.


Cartel gunmen surrounded security forces in the city of Culiacan, northwest Mexico, on October 17, forcing them to release the son of jailed kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. His detention earlier on triggered gunfights and a prison break.

The France 24 Observers team has taken a look at the various videos shared on social media from the day’s violence.

The following video has more than 900 thousand views. It shows military personnel exchanging heavy fire with cartel gunmen.

Caption: “The clashes continue.”

The scene takes place around this location. What you see on Google Street View doesn’t seem much like what you see in the video, but that’s because the Street View images at the time of writing are from 2009. Several commercial buildings have been constructed since then, which we know because you can clearly see this restaurant and this other one in the video.

A reverse image search on screenshots from the video comes up with nothing earlier than October 17, so we can assume it was shot yesterday.


Heavy firepower

To explain why the gunfire heard in the first video is so intense, have a look at some of the weaponry the cartel were apparently using.

Caption: “Armed to the teeth.”

This video, with more than a million views, shows a car pumping out Spanish language music, loaded with an arsenal of heavy weaponry, including an M249 machine gun and an M72 LAW rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

We couldn’t localise the exact stretch of road, given that the video mostly depicts the inside of the car, but a reverse image search came up with no older versions of the video.

This was not the case for a similar video showing men in a car with a rocket launcher, which has over 900 thousand views, but which is in fact at least four months old.

You can see an example of a gunman firing a high calibre sniper rifle in the following video:

Caption: “Warzone.”

We were able to pinpoint the exact location. On Google Street View, you can clearly see the utility pole he uses for cover, and the same petrol station with the “SoniGas” logo on it behind him. Changes such as the reinforcement around the base of the pole, and the trees that weren’t there before, are explained by the fact that the Street View images were, again, taken in 2009.


Who's in charge?

In stunning footage filmed at a tollbooth, Mexican soldiers appear to be shaking hands with cartel members, after being “overthrown.”

A reverse image search of different screenshots didn’t come up with anything older than a few hours, suggesting the video is indeed new.

It was shot around here. This tollbooth is near Culiacan, and it bears similarities to the one in the video. If you look at the horizon from this angle on Street View and compare it with that in the video, you can see that the hills in the background have the same shape. Some security features have been added since the Street View photos were uploaded in 2014.

To find out how to check videos and images for yourself, have a look at our verification guide.


Article by Peter O’Brien (@POB_journo)