Jim Kouri
ICE agents' attackers likely Los Zetas crime gang
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By Jim Kouri
February 16, 2011

The attackers of two American federal agents while traveling in Mexico yesterday are believed to be members or associates of the Mexican crime gang Los Zetas, a confidential source tells the Law Enforcement Examiner..

The two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents — were assigned to the ICE Attaché office in Mexico City. They were shot in the line-of-duty while driving between Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico, by unknown assailants.

According to Homeland Security officials, one agent — Jaime Zapata — was critically wounded in the attack and died from his injuries. The second agent, who remains unidentified, was shot in the arm and leg and remains in stable condition.

"I am deeply saddened to report that two of our agents assigned to the ICE Attaché Office in Mexico City were shot today in the line of duty. One of those agents has succumbed to his injuries and the other remains hospitalized," said ICE Director John Morton yesterday.

A confidential source at Homeland Security informed the Law Enforcement Examiner, that a working theory of the crime is that the bloodthirsty and ruthless Los Zetas are behind the shooting of the American agents.

On Monday, in Nuevo Leon state, gunmen believed to be part of the Los Zetas crime gang ambushed and killed a top intelligence officer, then torched his car, said the anonymous source.

That attack had some of the hallmarks of a drug cartel hit, but the shooters remain unidentified, he said.

Los Zetas and other Mexican gangs have fiercely attacked police and soldiers who are trying to restore order across Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. Police, mayors — and even a popular gubernatorial candidate in Tamaulipas — have been viciously murdered in more than a year of violence.

In just the last year, killings soared to 620 in Nuevo Leon state, compared to just 112 in 2009.

LOS ZETAS

Originally, Los Zetas was a paramilitary group of former Mexican soldiers, police officers and military deserters. They provided "the muscle" and protection for Mexican drug traffickers and coyotes.

In the past, the federal government of Mexico temporarily deployed the military and federal police officers to maintain order against trafficker-generated violence in highly impacted cities. But more often than not Mexican military — or those posing as military — provide protection for the traffickers and drug gangs.

Los Zetas now complicates matters even more. These former Mexican military personnel, some of whom were actually trained by the United States in counter-narcotics operations, have become a separate drug cartel and in many cases turned on the very gangs they were hired to protect.

The working relationship between the United States and Mexico on investigations against major drug and human traffickers continues. The professional capacity of Mexico's lead counter-drug police agency, the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI), has increased dramatically.

However, it is not clear that the improvements have reduced the volume of drugs trafficked in Mexico. Some major traffickers, such as the Arrellano Felix Organization, have been damaged, but other traffickers — including Los Zetas — have expanded operations.

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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