Tuesday, March 7, 2006

A man suspected of alien smuggling on the Texas-Mexico border has ordered his men to shoot at U.S. Border Patrol agents who attempt to apprehend smugglers who are escorting illegal aliens into the United States, according to an FBI bulletin.

Issued Feb. 28 by the FBI’s San Antonio field office, the unclassified law-enforcement bulletin said smuggling suspect Martin Delgado told gang members that when one of them is in danger of being caught by a Border Patrol agent in the United States, another on the Mexican side should “shoot in the direction of the agent” to force him to retreat.

Delgado, identified by law-enforcement authorities as the head of the “Los Roqueros” smuggling organization operating south of Rio Bravo, Texas, ordered his men to “shoot to scare” the agents, according to the bulletin.

It noted that Delgado warned against trying to kill the agents, but said his men should shoot close enough to scare off agents and give his smugglers an opportunity to escape.

Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar told a Senate subcommittee last week that efforts to identify and dismantle smuggling organizations on the border have resulted in an increase in violence aimed at his agents.

He said 192 agents have been assaulted since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, and the number of agents assaulted during fiscal 2005 more than doubled over that of fiscal 2004.

“This line of defense does come at a price, and our dedicated agents face significant risks,” Chief Aguilar told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security. “As we continue to bring larger areas of the border under operational control, we can expect spikes in border violence as border criminals discover they can no longer operate with impunity and are prevented from using the border for their criminal activities.”

Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 1.15 million illegal aliens trying to cross into the United States in fiscal 2005.

Los Roqueros reportedly pays smuggling rights or “a quota” to the Zetas, former Mexican military officers trained in the United States as elite anti-drug specialists who have since deserted and signed on as mercenaries for drug smugglers. About 200 Zetas are thought to be headquartered in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Laredo, but have expanded their operations all along the Texas border.

For a $1,500 weekly payment, the FBI bulletin said, Delgado has exclusive rights to operate on the Mexican side of the border from Rio Bravo and El Cenizo. Los Roqueros is thought to have smuggled hundreds of illegal aliens into the United States.

The bulletin also cited the recent surge of violence on the U.S.-Mexico border, saying it had heightened officer safety concerns. In the past weeks, it said, gunmen have fired on Border Patrol agents, Mexican drug traffickers have attacked Texas lawmen, and Mexican gunmen have stormed the offices of a newspaper in Nuevo Laredo.

It said that on Feb. 27, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) criminal intelligence service reported a threat by the Zetas against law-enforcement officials, specifically DPS troopers in Rio Grande City, Texas.

The threat, it said, was in response to the shooting of suspected Zetas member Ismael Segura Mendez, 23, by a trooper Jan. 14.

The bulletin called the Zetas “an emerging criminal enterprise which originated from a highly disciplined and trained special forces group of the Mexican military.”

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