- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

Alien smugglers angry about increased security along the U.S.-Mexico border plan to hire members of the violent Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, street gang to kill U.S. Border Patrol agents, according to an “alert” issued by the Department of Homeland Security.

The alert, sent to Border Patrol agents Dec. 21, says smugglers think that targeting the agents with “contract killers” is the best way to deal with the bolstered border, particularly in Arizona.

Border Patrol spokesman Salvador Zamora said alerts are issued periodically to provide field agents the “most up-to-date information.” He said no specific details were given about the threat, but it was determined important enough to advise agents to use caution.

MS-13 members in this country have been tied to killings, robberies, burglaries, carjackings, extortion, rapes and aggravated assaults. Authorities said the gang targets civilians, rival gang members and suspected traitors, and has issued “green light” notices to kill police officers.

In September, the FBI announced a coordinated, five-nation law-enforcement effort with local, state, federal and international agencies against what it called the “growing violence” from gang activity, particularly MS-13.

The FBI says 10,000 MS-13 members are in the United States, although other estimates range as high as 30,000. The largest concentrations are in Los Angeles, Virginia, Maryland and New York. The FBI has put the MS-13 membership in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at about 50,000.

Security along the U.S.-Mexico border has increased under a law-enforcement program known as the Secure Border Initiative, which put additional agents in the field to patrol the border, secure ports of entry and enforce immigration law. It increased detention and removal capabilities, brought in upgraded technology and expanded interior enforcement.

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff promised to crack down on alien smugglers at two border crossings near San Diego by assigning more prosecutors and increasing jail space for those arrested. He said the program would shift later to other border regions.

Violence along the border, particularly against Border Patrol agents, has increased dramatically.

Two weeks ago, a Border Patrol agent who came under a rock attack fatally shot a Mexican national near San Ysidro, Calif. The unidentified agent was attacked after approaching the man inside the U.S. border.

Border Patrol officials said the agent was protecting himself from rocks thrown by Guillermo Martinez-Rodriguez, 21, a Mexican national who died five hours later at a Tijuana hospital. The San Diego Police Department is investigating the incident.

Border Patrol officials have since identified Mr. Martinez-Rodriguez as a suspected alien smuggler. His brother, Augustine Jamie Martinez-Rodriguez, 33, whose arrest record includes an assault on a U.S. police officer, was at the border site at the time of the shooting.

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