Roman Helmets Found in Safe House Add to Knights Templar Image

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    Mexican security forces found 120 plastic Roman warrior-type helmets at a safehouse belonging to the Knights Templar, an offshoot of the once powerful Familia Michoacana criminal organization, in an illustration of the gang’s penchant for rituals and symbolism.

    On February 27, the Mexican military raided three drug laboratories used to manufacture synthetic drugs in the western state of Michoacan. At one site, they found the 120 plastic helmets (see video below), along with ceremonial robes and cloaks. The costumes were reportedly worn by members of the Knights Templar during initiation ceremonies.

    Officials also seized a large quantity of precursor chemicals used to produce methamphetamine, as well as laboratory equipment and several handheld radios. No arrests were made in the operations, which were part of the security surge in Michoacan that the government began last month.

    InSight Crime Analysis

    The Knights Templar are an offshoot of the once mighty Familia Michoacana drug gang, which splintered into several factions after the December 2010 death of Familia boss and spiritual leader Nazario Moreno.

    The discovery of the helmets and costumes fits well with what is known about the group’s self-image. Like the Familia before them, the Knights Templar have enforced their gang identity with an ideology that characterizes itself as protectors of the state of Michoacan. A pamphlet the group distributed last year was adorned with images of gallant knights, and described the gang as champions in the “fight against materialism, injustice and tyranny.”

    More recently, the group called for a truce in the state of Guanajuato during the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI and accused the Mexican military of human rights abuses, further portraying themselves as devout defenders of the common man. Unfortunately, this image is difficult to reconcile with their record of drug trafficking, extortion and murder.

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