Drug-smuggling gangs in Mexico have sent well-armed assassins, or “sicarios,” into Arizona to locate and kill bandits who are ambushing and stealing loads of cocaine, marijuana and heroin headed to buyers in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security has warned Arizona law enforcement authorities.
In a memo first sent in May but widely circulated since, the department said a group of “15, very well-equipped and armed” assassins complete with body armor had been sent into the state to identify, locate and kill the drug thieves, who are thought to be independent operators.
The memo said the assassins had been dispatched to the Vekol Valley, a well-established and widely travelled drug-smuggling corridor running north and south across Interstate 8 between the Arizona towns of Casa Grande and Gila Bend. The valley is a direct link to both the interstate and to Phoenix, giving drug smugglers the option of shipping their goods to California or to major cities both north and east.
Disguised as groups of backpackers but carrying empty boxes covered with burlap, the memo said the paid assassins would attempt to “draw out the bandits.” Once identified, it said, the assassins “will take out the bandits.”
“We just received information from a proven, credible confidential source who reported that a meeting was held in Puerto Penasco, in which every smuggling organization who utilizes the Vekol Valley was told to attend,” the memo said. “This included rival groups within the Guzman cartel.”
Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera heads what formally is known as the Sinaloa Cartel, which smuggles multi-ton loads of cocaine from Colombia through Mexico into the United States. One of the most powerful and dangerous drug gangs in Mexico, it also is known as the Guzman cartel and has been linked to the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican marijuana and “black tar” heroin.
The federal government recently posted signs along Interstate 8 in the Vekol Valley warning travelers the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers. The signs were posted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) along a 60-mile stretch of Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Gila Bend, warning travelers they are entering an “active drug- and human-smuggling area” and may encounter “armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at high rates of speed.”
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, whose county includes the valley, told The Washington Times earlier this month that Mexican drug cartels have posted scouts on the high points around the valley to control movement in the area. He said they have radios, optics and “night-vision goggles as good as anything law enforcement has.”
“This is going on here in Arizona … 30 miles from the fifth-largest city in the United States,” he said.
The sheriff said he asked the Obama administration for 3,000 National Guard soldiers to patrol the border, but got 15 signs along Interstate 8 instead.
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