Former Mexican soldiers, police and federal agents, originally trained as an elite force of anti-drug commandos, are working as mercenaries for Mexican narcotics traffickers, bringing a new wave of drug-related killings into the United States, authorities said.
Law-enforcement and intelligence officials said the well-armed gang, known as the “Zetas,” is linked to hundreds of killings and dozens of kidnappings on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly over a wide area of southeastern Texas from Laredo to Brownsville and in cities throughout Mexico.
In protecting established drug corridors into the United States, gang leaders have targeted U.S. Border Patrol agents and state and local police, authorities said, along with Mexican military and law-enforcement personnel, even offering bounties of up to $50,000.
U.S. intelligence officials said the Zetas might have obtained Soviet-made SA-7 shoulder-mounted missile launchers off the black market, although information on the purchase is sketchy. The Bush administration has been concerned in recent weeks about the fate of Soviet-provided SA-7s in Nicaragua, about 80 of which have not been accounted for by the government and are thought to have been sold on the black market.
“Based on the activities of both the drug cartels and their hired guns, sources suggest it is only a matter of time before Mexican drug wars spill over onto U.S. streets,” the report said. “There is some evidence, in fact, that a number of unsolved drug-related murders in the Southwest could be linked to the Zetas.
“If true, it suggests the Mexican cartels’ paramilitary forces already are operating within the United States,” the report said.