Mexican official says that one of Mexico's most powerful cartels is expanding into territory just across the US border

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The Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel — one of Mexico's strongest and fastest-growing criminal organizations — is moving into Baja California, just across the border from the US, according to an official from the Mexican attorney general's office.

It seems increasingly likely that the CJNG, as the cartel is known, is challenging the powerful Sinaloa cartel for control of drug-smuggling territory there.

The announcement from Gualberto Ramírez Gutiérrez, the head of the kidnapping unit within the Mexican attorney general's office, came after the apprehension of Marco Tulio Carrillo Grande, a former Tijuana policeman who was believed to be working as the head of the Sinaloa cartel's hit men in Baja California.

Carrillo Grande is suspected of organizing deadly attacks on both the Jalisco cartel and the Arellano Felix organization, two organizations with which the Sinaloa cartel is vying for control of the Tijuana plaza, or trafficking territory.

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Carrillo Grande "is identified as responsible for coordinating the aggressions of the criminal organization to which he belonged against a rival group with which [Carrillo Grande's organization] is disputing the Baja California zone, which has provoked the current spiral of violence in that region," Ramírez Gutiérrez said during a press conference.

See photos of the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel:

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Jalisco drug cartel, Mexico
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Mexican official says that one of Mexico's most powerful cartels is expanding into territory just across the US border
Mexican soldiers escort Jose Serna Padilla aka 'El zopilote' an alleged member of the drug cartel 'Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion' during his presentation to the press on March 18, 2012 in Guadalajara City, Mexico. Serna Padilla was arrested during a military operation in the small town of Zapotiltic in the Jalisco State. AFP PHOTO/Hector Guerrero (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter help in traffic in the Guadalajara - Autlan highway, Jalisco state, Mexico, on May 1, 2015.More than a dozen vehicles were set on fire on Friday across Guadalajara, Mexico's second biggest city, while a drug gang and authorities clashed in another part of Jalisco state. Authorities have not said who was responsible for the violence, but it came amid an escalation of violence by the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel, which killed 20 police officers in two ambushes in March and April. AFP PHOTO/Hector Guerrero (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters work on a burned truck in the Guadalajara - Autlan highway, Jalisco state, Mexico, on May 1, 2015. More than a dozen vehicles were set on fire on Friday across Guadalajara, Mexico's second biggest city, while a drug gang and authorities clashed in another part of Jalisco state. Authorities have not said who was responsible for the violence, but it came amid an escalation of violence by the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel, which killed 20 police officers in two ambushes in March and April. AFP PHOTO/Hector Guerrero (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters work on a burned truck in the Guadalajara - Autlan highway, Jalisco state, Mexico, on May 1, 2015. More than a dozen vehicles were set on fire on Friday across Guadalajara, Mexico's second biggest city, while a drug gang and authorities clashed in another part of Jalisco state. Authorities have not said who was responsible for the violence, but it came amid an escalation of violence by the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel, which killed 20 police officers in two ambushes in March and April. AFP PHOTO/Hector Guerrero (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Federal policemen secure the highway bewteen Guadalajara in Jalisco state and Leon city, in Guanajuato State, Mexico, on May 01, 2015. More than a dozen vehicles were set on fire on Friday across Guadalajara, Mexico's second biggest city, while a drug gang and authorities clashed in another part of Jalisco state. Authorities have not said who was responsible for the violence, but it came amid an escalation of violence by the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel, which killed 20 police officers in two ambushes in March and April. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters work on a burned bus in the highway bewteen Guadalajara in Jalisco state and Leon city, in Guanajuato State, Mexico, on May 01, 2015. More than a dozen vehicles were set on fire on Friday across Guadalajara, Mexico's second biggest city, while a drug gang and authorities clashed in another part of Jalisco state. Authorities have not said who was responsible for the violence, but it came amid an escalation of violence by the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel, which killed 20 police officers in two ambushes in March and April. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of Mexican Army stand guard in the highway bewteen Guadalajara in Jalisco state and Leon city, in Guanajuato State, Mexico, on May 01, 2015. More than a dozen vehicles were set on fire on Friday across Guadalajara, Mexico's second biggest city, while a drug gang and authorities clashed in another part of Jalisco state. Authorities have not said who was responsible for the violence, but it came amid an escalation of violence by the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel, which killed 20 police officers in two ambushes in March and April. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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Underworld alliances

Ramírez Gutiérrez's comments about a possible inter-cartel turf war are "the highest-profile claim yet made by a Mexican official placing CJNG in Baja California," according to Insight Crime, and come after reports earlier this year that escalating violence in Tijuana was related to cartel competition over territory.

"Nueva Generacion does not have a significant physical presence in [Baja California, where Tijuana is located], but has focused on forging alliances with members of the Tijuana underworld in a challenge to the Sinaloa cartel," Daniel de la Rosa, the public safety secretary in Baja California, told Sandra Dibble of the San Diego Union-Tribune in late February.

Tijuana's homicide rate has jumped from 28 per 100,000 residents in 2012 to 39 per 100,000 in 2015, which made it the 35th-most-violent city in the world that year, according to a Mexican think tank.

Drug-related homicides were more than 536 of the city's 670 homicides last year. Moreover, Dibble reports, 71 homicides in January were the most the city has seen in the first month of the year since 2010.

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State officials were confident that the rise in killings (which has occurred alongside a drop in other common crimes) is the result of organized criminal activity — and of CJNG's ambitions.

Violence has gone "up because a third group" that had not previously been in the city "is in the process of becoming established," the state's deputy attorney general for organized crime, José María Gonzalez, told Dibble.

'There's the sense that ... they're fighting'

The Sinaloa cartel — thought to be the most powerful trafficking organization in the world — and the Arellano Felix organization have competed for control over the Tijuana plaza for most of the last 20 years, with the Sinaloa cartel dominant for much of that time.

The arrival of the CJNG — one of North America's major meth traffickers — on the scene in the northwest Mexican city has the potential to increase the bloodshed, as the recent months have shown.

RELATED: Mexican cartel shootout with police

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Mexican Cartel shootout with Police, Mexico
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Mexican official says that one of Mexico's most powerful cartels is expanding into territory just across the US border
Federal police officers leave the ranch where gunmen took cover during an intense gun battle with the police, along the Jalisco-Michoacan highway in Vista Hermosa, Michoacan State, on May 22, 2015. At least 37 people were killed in the gunfight in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan, in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's drug war. Two police officers also died in the shootout in the municipality of Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state, a federal government official told AFP. Michoacan and Jalisco have endured some of the worst violence in a drug war that began to escalate in 2006, when the government deployed troops to combat cartels. More than 80,000 have been killed and another 22,000 gone missing nationwide in the past nine years. AFP PHOTO / HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Federal police officers stands guard outside the ranch where gunmen took cover during an intense gun battle with the police, along the Jalisco-Michoacan highway in Vista Hermosa, Michoacan State, on May 22, 2015. At least 37 people were killed in the gunfight in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan, in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's drug war. Two police officers also died in the shootout in the municipality of Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state, a federal government official told AFP. Michoacan and Jalisco have endured some of the worst violence in a drug war that began to escalate in 2006, when the government deployed troops to combat cartels. More than 80,000 have been killed and another 22,000 gone missing nationwide in the past nine years. AFP PHOTO / HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Federal police officers leave the ranch where gunmen took cover during an intense gun battle with the police, along the Jalisco-Michoacan highway in Vista Hermosa, Michoacan State, on May 22, 2015. At least 37 people were killed in the gunfight in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan, in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's drug war. Two police officers also died in the shootout in the municipality of Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state, a federal government official told AFP. Michoacan and Jalisco have endured some of the worst violence in a drug war that began to escalate in 2006, when the government deployed troops to combat cartels. More than 80,000 have been killed and another 22,000 gone missing nationwide in the past nine years. AFP PHOTO / HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
A Federal police officer stands guard outside a ranch where gunmen took cover during an intense gun battle with the police, along the Jalisco-Michoacan highway in Vista Hermosa, Michoacan State, on May 22, 2015. At least 37 people were killed in the gunfight in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan, in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's drug war. Two police officers also died in the shootout in the municipality of Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state, a federal government official told AFP. Michoacan and Jalisco have endured some of the worst violence in a drug war that began to escalate in 2006, when the government deployed troops to combat cartels. More than 80,000 have been killed and another 22,000 gone missing nationwide in the past nine years. AFP PHOTO / HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Federal police officers stands guard outside the ranch where gunmen took cover during an intense gun battle with the police, along the Jalisco-Michoacan highway in Vista Hermosa, Michoacan State, on May 22, 2015. At least 37 people were killed in the gunfight in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan, in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's drug war. Two police officers also died in the shootout in the municipality of Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state, a federal government official told AFP. Michoacan and Jalisco have endured some of the worst violence in a drug war that began to escalate in 2006, when the government deployed troops to combat cartels. More than 80,000 have been killed and another 22,000 gone missing nationwide in the past nine years. AFP PHOTO / HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Federal police gather along the Jalisco-Michoacan highway in Vista Hermosa, Michoacan State, on May 22, 2015 near the ranch where gunmen took cover during an intense gun battle with the police. At least 37 people were killed in the gunfight in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan, in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's drug war. Two police officers also died in the shootout in the municipality of Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state, a federal government official told AFP. Michoacan and Jalisco have endured some of the worst violence in a drug war that began to escalate in 2006, when the government deployed troops to combat cartels. More than 80,000 have been killed and another 22,000 gone missing nationwide in the past nine years. AFP PHOTO / HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Federal police leave a ranch along the Jalisco-Michoacan highway in Vista Hermosa, Michoacan State, on May 22, 2015 where gunmen took cover during an intense gun battle with the police. At least 37 people were killed in the gunfight in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan, in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's drug war. Two police officers also died in the shootout in the municipality of Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state, a federal government official told AFP. Michoacan and Jalisco have endured some of the worst violence in a drug war that began to escalate in 2006, when the government deployed troops to combat cartels. More than 80,000 have been killed and another 22,000 gone missing nationwide in the past nine years. AFP PHOTO / HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
A Federal police officer stands guard at the ranch where gunmen took cover during an intense gun battle with the police, along the Jalisco-Michoacan highway in Vista Hermosa, Michoacan State, on May 22, 2015. At least 37 people were killed in the gunfight in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan, in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's drug war. Two police officers also died in the shootout in the municipality of Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state, a federal government official told AFP. Michoacan and Jalisco have endured some of the worst violence in a drug war that began to escalate in 2006, when the government deployed troops to combat cartels. More than 80,000 have been killed and another 22,000 gone missing nationwide in the past nine years. AFP PHOTO / HECTOR GUERRERO (Photo credit should read HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)
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A relative newcomer on Mexico's narco scene, the CJNG emerged around 2010, reportedly from the remnants of a trafficking organization headed by Ignacio Coronel, an ally of Guzmán's Sinaloa cartel (and reportedly Guzmán's current wife's uncle) in Jalisco state in southwest Mexico.

Since then, the CJNG has established itself as one of the most fearsome cartels in Mexico, seizing control of much of southwest Jalisco state, corrupting many police forces, and engaging federal and military forces in bloody shootouts.

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There have been rumors that CJNG and Sinaloa have cooperated to some extent. After Guzmán's escape from prison in July, it was reported that CJNG had helped finance his escape.

While it has been hard to parse exactly what kind of relationship exists between the CJNG and Sinaloa cartels, rumors of CJNG expansion in to Sinaloa territory may be the latest development in a trend toward open conflict.

"It was usually thought they were collaborators, that Jalisco was a junior partner with Sinaloa,"said Alejandro Hope, the security and justice editor for El Daily Post, during a discussion at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, in late January.

"But more increasingly there's the sense that they're rivals, and that ... they're fighting, at least in some areas."

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