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- 03-10-2014, 12:54 AM #1
Alleged Mexican Military Incursion Into Arizona May Point To Cartel Collusion
Alleged Mexican Military Incursion Into Arizona May Point To Cartel Collusion
“Anytime individuals in military uniforms cross a border that’s obviously cause for concern. This incident deserves a close look,” Sen. Tom Coburn said
.posted on March 8, 2014 at 2:16pm EST
Mexican military personnel carrying G3 long arms similar to those carried by two alleged Mexican soldiers who illegally entered U.S. territory in January. The soldiers pictured were photographed in Ecatepec, Mexico, in 2013. Edgard Garrido / REUTERS
WASHINGTON — Just before 8:30 a.m. January 26, two figures dressed in camouflage and carrying military assault rifles crossed an international border, making their way on foot through the quiet desert terrain, unaware that they were under the constant watch of authorities in the country they had just entered.
Within minutes a border patrol agent confronted the two men. Weapons were drawn. Asked for identification, the two men provided their names — which didn’t correspond with the names on their uniforms. After a brief, tense standoff, the two men retreated back across the border just as reinforcements were arriving.
No, this isn’t the opening scene to the next season of Homeland, or some harrowing special-forces mission gone wrong in a distant corner of the world.
The armed incursion occurred on United States soil, outside Sasabe, Arizona, just north of the U.S. Mexico border. Drug dealers and migrants use a large wildlife preserve to the east and the empty desert to the west of Sasabe as trafficking corridors.
Both Mexican and U.S. border agents have crossed over the border in this area, pursuing suspects. But according to officials familiar with the situation, border crossings by members of either military are rare. In a January letter to the head of Customs and Border Protection about the incident, Sen. Tom Coburn asked if the agency has “concerns that some members of the Mexican Military could be providing security and/or intelligence to Drug Trafficking Organizations.” The Sinaloa Cartel, widely considered one of the world’s most powerful drug syndicates, operates along the Sasabe stretch of the border.
“Anytime individuals in military uniforms cross a border that’s obviously cause for concern,” the Oklahoma Republican told BuzzFeed Friday. “This incident deserves a close look.”
An internal CBP “Foreign Military Incursion” incident report was provided by a confidential informant to BuzzFeed and verified by Sen. Coburn. It makes for riveting reading.
The border fence running west from the Sasabe, Arizona check point. John Stanton / BuzzFeed
At about 8:53 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, an official monitoring video surveillance “had a visual of two subjects entering the United States approximately 2.5 miles west of the Sasabe Port of Entry.” Border Patrol Agent David Olaya “reported subjects appear to be Mexican Military personnel approximately 50 yards north of the International Border. At 0920 hours, BPA Olaya stated he positively identified the two individuals.”
According to the report, “both parties drew their weapons.” The two men in camouflage had H&K G3 long arms, a type of assault rifle commonly used by the Mexican military.
Olaya said the two men identified themselves as members of the Mexican Military’s 80th Battalion. But the names they gave didn’t match the names on their uniforms. Additionally, the men informed Olaya “that they had been pursing [sic] three subjects that were seen in the area.” The incident report does not indicate that the video surveillance system had seen any other individuals in the area.
By this time, according to the incident report, officials at the border patrol were trying to contact Mexican military officials. “At approximately 0926 Supervisory Border Patrol Agent (SBPA) George Serrano … was contacted and apprised of the situation. SBPA Serrano attempted to make contact with the headquarters of SEDENA 45th Military Zone,” which covers the area around Sasabe. “A voice message was left at the office,” the incident report says.
Two minutes later, “both Mexican Military personnel turned southbound after they saw other [Border Patrol] units westbound toward BPA Olaya.” Within seven minutes, the two men had crossed back into Mexico.
Although CPB Acting Watch Commander Eduardo Fuentes was alerted, it does not appear he took much action beyond reviewing the incident report.
Additionally an agent with the Border Patrol’s Critical Incident Team — which investigates shootings and other incidents involving agents — “stated they will not be responding to this incident,” according to the report.
Olaya could not be reached for comment, and CBP spokeswoman Jenny Burke did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The Mexican embassy in Washington also did not respond to a request for comment.
Congressional investigators have had no better luck in getting answers from CBP, which has a history of ignoring information requests from lawmakers in both chambers.
For instance, Sen. Robert Menendez has filed multiple requests with CBP for its policies regarding the use of deadly force. Although CBP has conducted a review of the practice, it has yet to provide the New Jersey Democrat or congressional investigators with the policies behind its use of force, particularly against Mexican nationals. Similarly, CBP has been accused of stonewalling congressional investigators and outside watchdog groups over conditions in its detention centers.
In his January letter, Sen. Coburn asked CBP Acting Commissioner Thomas Winkowski a series of questions about the incursion into U.S. territory, including whether top CBP officials were informed of the incursion and whether CBP has verified the two men were in fact military personnel.
Coburn, the ranking minority member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked CBP to respond by February 3. He told BuzzFeed this week that he has yet to hear back.
Sen. Tom Coburn’s Letter Seeking Answers about the Border Incursion
- 03-10-2014, 07:42 PM #2
Cartel connection? Senator presses agency on 'Mexican military' incursion into US
By Judson Berger
Published March 10, 2014
Feb. 22, 2014: Military personnel stand atop a truck during a raid in Mazatlan, Mexico.REUTERS
Individuals in Mexican military uniforms drew their guns on a U.S. border agent earlier this year after having crossed the southwestern border into Arizona, a U.S. senator claimed, raising concerns once again that Mexican officials are illegally crossing into the U.S. and, worse, potentially aiding the drug cartels.
The incident described by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would appear to be one of dozens over the past decade where Mexican military and law enforcement officers have crossed into U.S. territory. Most are presumed to be accidental, but they also raise the possibility that Mexican military members -- or individuals posing as them -- are helping drug cartels.
"This incident is of concern," Coburn wrote in a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection's former acting commissioner, asking whether CBP has concerns that Mexican military members are "providing security and/or intelligence to Drug Trafficking Organizations."
In the January letter, obtained by Fox News, Coburn detailed a Jan. 26 incident along the normally quiet Sasabe outpost in Arizona.
The encounter played out as follows, according to the letter:
A Border Patrol agent went to the scene after two individuals were spotted crossing the U.S. border. The agent found them 50 yards north of the border and "positively identified two subjects looking like Mexican Military." They were wearing tan camouflage and traveling on foot.
When the agent made contact, both the agent and the two individuals drew their weapons -- they were carrying "G3, 7.62 caliber battle rifles."
When the U.S. agent identified himself, and the two individuals identified themselves as part of the Mexican military's 80th Battalion, the situation "apparently cooled off."
The two explained to the U.S. agent that they were pursuing three subjects in the area. Yet the U.S. agent noticed that the names they gave "did not match the name-tapes on their military uniforms." The individuals returned to Mexico after more CBP personnel made their way to the scene.
Coburn asked CBP a string of questions about the incident, including whether other U.S. agencies were informed and how often this kind of incursion happens.
Past reports and testimony indicate this is far from the first time Mexican personnel have crossed the U.S. border without prior permission.
The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch claimed in 2008 that it had obtained documents showing 29 incursions by Mexican agents and officials in fiscal 2006.
The group also reported that Department of Homeland Security records showed more than 200 such incidents between 1996 and 2005.
The Washington Times in 2008 reported on another incident where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was held at gunpoint by apparent members of the Mexican military after they crossed the U.S. border. As with the incident Coburn described, the soldiers returned to Mexico after other agents arrived.
According to BuzzFeed, which first reported on the Coburn letter, the incident report shows that U.S. officers tried to contact their counterparts in Mexico about the encounter, and a "voice message was left."
It's unclear, as Coburn noted in his letter, whether the incident has been resolved. A spokesman said CBP has not yet responded to Coburn's questions, though he set a Feb. 3 deadline in his letter.
A new commissioner, Gil Kerlikowske, took command of the agency last week.