- The Washington Times - Friday, February 3, 2006

Federal agents and local police assigned to a border security task force have seized two homemade bombs, material for 33 more, grenades, machine gun assembly kits and other weapons, drugs and cash in separate raids in Laredo, Texas.

The bombs and other paraphernalia are thought to belong to or be destined for rival drug cartels across the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where a brutal yearlong war over the control of drug and alien smuggling routes into the United States has raged.

More than 150 people — including the police chief, a city councilman and 13 police officers — have been killed in the Mexican border town over the last year.

“Keeping explosives and other high-powered weaponry out of the hands of violent criminal organizations is a central focus of the new Border Enforcement and Security Task Force,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“As these seizures and arrests demonstrate, ICE is working day and night with its task force partners to stem the tide of violence that has been ravaging border communities in south Texas in recent months,” said Mrs. Myers in announcing the seizures during a press conference in San Antonio.

The seizures occurred during separate raids on homes in Laredo over the past week by task force members from ICE; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the FBI, along with officers from the Laredo Police Department.

Seized were two completed bombs, material for 33 more, 300 primers, 3,880 rounds of ammunition, 5 grenade shells, 9 pipes with end caps, 26 grenade triggers, 31 grenade spoons, 40 grenade pins, 19 black powder casings, 91 firearm magazines, 4 silencers, 6 kits to assemble fully automatic weapons, 20 assembled firearms including AK-47s and AR-15s, two Uzi assault weapons, two bulletproof vests, sniper scopes, police scanners and pinhole cameras, along with other pistols and rifles.

Also found was cocaine, methamphetamine, 400 pounds of marijuana and $5,000 in cash.

The bombs were described by ICE officials as improvised explosive devices, the formal name for a homemade device often used in unconventional warfare by terrorists, guerrillas or commando forces. It usually consists of an explosive charge, a detonator and a mechanism either mechanical or electronic, known as the initiation system.

The task force, formerly known as “Operation Black Jack,” is a Homeland Security-led, intelligence-driven operation created in Laredo in July to share information and target the leadership and supporting infrastructure of violent criminal organizations operating in the Laredo and Nuevo Laredo areas.

Since its inception, task force members have arrested 28 persons and seized 36 assault rifles, 10 handguns, 5 silencers, a large quantity of weapons components, kits, and ammunition, as well as roughly 700 pounds of marijuana, 336 pounds of cocaine, 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine and $1.14 million in cash.

Other task force members are from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Last month, officials at Homeland Security said several new task forces would be created along the border based on the Laredo model, assigned the task of eliminating the top leadership and supporting infrastructures that sustain cross-border criminal organizations.

The next task force will begin operations in Arizona following the completion of a threat assessment of the area.

Much of the violence in Nuevo Laredo has been attributed by U.S. and Mexican authorities to a renegade band of Mexican military deserters known as the Zetas, who were trained in the U.S. as an elite force of anti-drug commandos. About 200 strong, they have since signed on as mercenaries for Mexican drug traffickers.



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