"Los Zetas" Draw Concern Of U.S. Government

Published: May. 26, 2005 at 3:07 AM MST|Updated: Jun. 3, 2005 at 2:49 PM MST
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By Morgan Loew, Phoenix

The U.S. Justice Department is warning local police in Arizona and California a group of rogue Mexican military commandos may be headed this way. They're thought to be setting up new drug smuggling routes and it could bring new violence to the border area.

They are elite "special forces" of the Mexican military trained in the U.S. at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia and sent to "wipe out" one of the most powerful Mexican drug cartels.

But these soldiers deserted and became the muscle for the very cartel they were supposed to destroy.

According to this Department of Justice "Intelligence Bulletin" obtained by the 5i-Team, these rogue commandos now known as "Los Zetas" may be heading our way.

The normally busy streets and busy stores in Nogales Sonora have been a little less bustling lately. Caesar Fierro says, "It's been slow this year." Caesar Fierro says his empty store is the result of rumors about a drug war. Tourists are scared.

Out on the streets, other vendors play down the speculation the Mexican Commandos are already here. Tony Marques says, "The Zetas.. I don't think they'll operate here you know." Marques says, "Maybe in the big cities like Juarez , Tijuana , now you're talking seriously like that."

The Intelligence Bulletin we obtained says the Zetas are responsible for hundreds of violent drug-related murders. It says they've executed journalists, murdered people in Dallas, McAllen and Laredo, Texas. They even detained two DEA agents and recently they've shot at Border Patrol agents. At the Arizona border with Mexico agents are already seeing a major increase in violence.

Jose Garza says, "Last year we had documented only nine shootings against our agents. This year we're up to about 18 shootings already."

Agent Jose Garza says his agents have seen no direct evidence the Zetas are responsible for the shootings here, but as far back as three-years ago, the Zeta-like tactics started to appear.

In March of 2002, U.S. Customs agents were involved in a shootout south of Phoenix with an enemy they had not seen before. Equipped with automatic weapons, body armor, and state-of-the-art communications, in a word - it looked "military."

Kyle Barnette says, "I'd be lying if I didn't say it concerns us."

Now, as a drug war between the Gulf Cartel to the east and the Tijuana Cartel to the west starts to heat up, the Justice Department bulletin warns: "The violence will spill over the Mexican border into the United States and law enforcement agencies in Texas, Arizona and Southern California can expect to encounter Los Zetas in the coming months."