On the trail of terrorists in Juárez

Mike Scanlon | Rio Grande Digital

Mike Scanlon is editor and publisher of Rio Grande Digital.

Mike Scanlon

A shadowy right-wing website caused a minor stir in the Paso del Norte region last week when it claimed — for a second time, citing anonymous “sources” — that a terrorist cell from the Islamic State organization was “camped” out in Juárez, or the Anapra suburb, to be precise, just eight miles from the border.

That can’t be right. First, there is no part of Anapra that is eight miles from the border. Anapra is literally on the border.

Such a wicked group, allegedly plotting an attack, would have to be in hiding somewhere, perhaps in a forest or jungle eight miles from the border. I could be mistaken, but I think the closest thing Juárez has to a forest is the Chamizal park. But like Anapra, it’s on the border. Go eight miles, or 13 kilometers, from the border, and you’ll still be in Juárez. I think there was a discotheque on Juarez Avenue in the ’70s called The Jungle, but it’s long gone.

They could be on the outskirts, but they’d be pretty easy to spot among the mesquite and creosote bushes.

It’s hard to tell from the phony report what is meant by “camp.” Is it a camp with a barracks and parade grounds where terrorists train with fixed bayonets? Or is it more like a camp with a small fire the terrorists gather around at night and sing folk songs and roast marshmallows? I wish they’d elaborate on that.

Maybe it was the same website or a different one that previously claimed that Border Patrol agents had discovered Muslim prayer rugs and copies of the Qur’an scattered along the border. There was no word on why someone would have discarded such things — or brought them on an expedition in the first place.

What the people at the website don’t seem to understand is that Juárez is a metropolis of 1.5 million people. Those people are not oblivious to world affairs. They’re well aware of what’s going on in the Middle East, and I don’t think anyone in Juárez would be willing to turn a blind eye to any real threat against the neighboring country.

Houston TV reporter Angela Kocherga was among the journalists who went to Anapra last week. Her report for KHOU featured a Juárez man who assured her viewers that Juarenses would know right away if foreign terrorists were in town, adding that it’s pretty easy even to recognize people from other parts of Mexico by their regional accents.

The website also claimed a mythical “drug cartel” had been enlisted to aid the terrorists. While there may be drug-trafficking organizations actively working along the border, keep in mind that they have very lucrative, time-tested business models, which most likely don’t include helping terrorists intent on harming anyone in the United States — by far their biggest market. Doing so, as they know, would bring added law enforcement pressure to the border. That wouldn’t help them at all.

The site also claimed a second terror cell was hiding out in Palomas, about 45 miles to the west, and preparing to attack Deming, New Mexico. Why anyone would want to attack a place like Deming, the site did not explain.

The site’s report seeped into the right-wing echo chamber, where it was repeated on Fox News and elsewhere.

While most people in the Paso del Norte region simply rolled their eyes, shook their heads and maybe chuckled at the report, others had to respond to it.

Both the Mexican government and US Department of Homeland Security issued statements debunking the report.

El Pasoan and US Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday: “Today I reached out to the Mexican government, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Northern Command. … None of them have found any evidence, credible or otherwise, that Isis is in Juárez.”

He continued, “Stories like these have come up before. The 1981 story about Libyan hit squads in Juárez. The fears that Al-Qaeda was going to invade after 9/11. The claims about Isis crossing the border last year.”

El Diario de Juárez had a well-sourced report to debunk the website’s claims.

But El Paso Times Editor Bob Moore was more direct when he told a radio news program in Austin, “It fits into a neat narrative, and although the focus is about ISIS and terrorism, this is really about immigration. I guess little kids from Central America just aren’t scary enough to generate the noise machine and raise funds, so you have to step up the scariness a little bit.”

He concludes, “Frankly, people who are peddling this nonsense ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

Indeed they should be ashamed.







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