EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Chihuahua state police and the Mexican army are looking for four men missing since last week in an area known for illegal logging activity.
The disappearance of Axel Fuentes, 22; Brayan Sandoval, 23; Isaac Rodriguez, 23; and Armando Olivas, 27, roughly coincides with the hijacking and burning of three flatbed trailers hauling lumber and a pickup truck in the community of El Largo, near Madera, Chihuahua, on or about Sept. 28. The men were last seen by their relatives one or two days earlier when they left for work.
Local news reports, quoting a survivor, say that a group of masked men wielding assault rifles stopped the trailers on their way to a ranch, and opened fire moments later. State police and the Mexican army arrived on the scene to find the shot-up trucks and their cargo on fire, and the pickup burning about a quarter mile up the road, El Heraldo de Chihuahua reported.
No bodies were found at the scene.
“We are investigating. … This is an act related to logging – the illegal logging that takes place there,” Chihuahua Attorney General Cesar Jauregui said in a news conference Monday broadcast on Facebook Live. “It is a matter of debts among people who work in the logging (industry), legal and illegal.”
The attack took place in the same area where fires consumed thousands of acres of forest last June. The vice president of the Chihuahua legislature attributed at least some of the fires to a conflict between criminal groups in the area.
“It is regrettable and worrisome that (criminals) try to intimidate society through these types of acts,” Edgar Pinon Dominguez told El Heraldo.
Illegal logging has increased substantially in the past few years in Western Chihuahua, as regional drug cartels have gotten into the business. State officials in 2020 told Border Report more than 37,000 acres of forest had been stripped by illegal loggers in the previous two years.
The state police periodically reports arrests of illegal loggers and seizures of trucks hauling recently felled trees.