By Jim Kouri
A Mexican army official announced on Monday that soldiers successfully rescued 61 men who were being held prisoner by drug cartel members near the border with the US. None of the prisoners were hurt during the rescue operation, according to a Law Enforcement Examiner source.
The captives were discovered by the troops in a house guarded by three of the alleged kidnappers in the town of Piedras Negras in Coahuila state.
They said they had been abducted from various parts of Mexico and forced to work for organized crime.
Mexican drug cartels kidnap and exploit immigrants attempting to cross the U.S. border, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent told the Law Enforcement Examiner. The DEA source claims the kidnap victims are used as drug “mules” to transport narcotics, cocaine and marijuana under the watchful eyes of the gang members.
The Mexican troops claimed they discovered the captives during a counter-narcotics patrol. Besides the kidnap victims, reportedly six tons of marijuana were also discovered. The DEA source, on condition of anonymity claims the marijuana was earmarked for the United States.
Neither the Mexican army report or the Law Enforcement Examiner source could identify which criminal organization was involved. Several different drugs gangs operate in Coahuila state, including Los Zetas and Gulf Cartel, which have been fighting a deadly war for the control of the highly desirable smuggling routes into the US.
Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass in Texas, is recognized as a stronghold of Los Zetas. Last year, the Mexican government blamed Los Zetas for the massacre of 72 foreign immigrants in the northern state of Tamaulipas after they apparently refused to work for the cartel.
In addition, they are blamed for the murder of more than 100 men, woman and children whose bodies were discovered in mass graves in Tamaulipas after the victims were apparently kidnapped from buses.
Los Zetas is comprised of retired military and police personnel who originally worked as protection for the Mexican drug gangs before becoming an independent cartel that competed with their former employers.
Some members, while still serving as soldiers and cops, came to the United States for counter-narcotics training at the School of the Americas, the FBI Academy and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.