MEXICO CITY—A team of rogue Mexican commandos blamed for dozens of killings along the U.S.-Mexico border has carried out at least three drug-related slayings in Dallas, a sign that the group is extending its deadly operations into U.S. cities, two American law enforcement officials say.
The men are known as the Zetas, former members of the Mexican army who defected to Mexico’s so-called Gulf drug cartel in the late 1990s, other officials say.
“These guys run like a military,” said Arturo A. Fontes, an FBI special investigator for border violence based in Laredo, in South Texas. “They have their hands in everything and they have eyes and ears everywhere. I’ve seen how they work, and they’re good at what they do. They’re an impressive bunch of ruthless criminals.”
KRT Mexican military convoys patrol the northern border of Mexico. Thousands have been dispatched to combat drug cartels and Zetas.
Dallas and federal officials said that since late 2003 eight to 10 members of the Zetas have been operating in North Texas, maintaining a “shadowy existence” and sometimes hiring Texas criminal gangs, including the Mexican Mafia and Texas Syndicate, for contract killings. The Texas Syndicate is a prison gang that authorities blame for several murders statewide.
The Zetas, who are accused off carrying out killings and acting as drug couriers for the cartel, are regarded by U.S. law enforcement officials as expert assassins who are especially worrisome because of their elite military training and penchant for using AR-15 and AK-47 assault rifles.
“The Zetas are bold, ruthless and won’t think twice about pulling the trigger on a cop or anyone else who gets in their way,” said the former Dallas narcotics officer, who asked not to be identified.