Monday, March 24, 2008

Afghan Nationals Caught with Genuine Mexican Passports

A U.S. Security Vulnerability in Mexico’s Foreign Offices?

By Todd Bensman

The San Antonio Express-News
March 2008

Three Afghani Muslim men caught posing as Mexican nationals last month while en route to Europe were part of a human smuggling operation and carried what are now believed to be altered but genuine Mexican passports for which they paid $10,000 each, Indian investigators told The San Antonio Express-News.

An ongoing transcontinental investigation, which now involves Mexican and Indian authorities, began Feb. 11 when a suspicious airport customs official in Kuwait noticed the three Afghanis, traveling under Mexican pseudonyms, could not speak Spanish during a layover on their air trip from New Delhi, India to France.

The three Afghani travelers were detained and deported to India, where they remain in custody while Mexican and Indian authorities try to learn about their backgrounds, where they were going and who sold the apparently real government-issue passports. A U.S. source confirmed the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators also are looking into the matter.

At issue to some U.S. national security experts is whether another of Mexico's foreign embassies might be implicated in selling travel documents to people from countries like Afghanistan where terrorist organizations are active, a circumstance that potentially could bring terrorists to American borders. It wouldn't be the first time a foreign Mexican embassy was implicated in such an affair.

In 2003, a Mexican investigation into a Lebanon-Mexico human smuggling operation produced firings and indictments of Mexican embassy personnel in Beirut for allegedly selling travel documents to Lebanese citizens. One man who bought a Mexican visa for $3,000 turned out to be a ranking Hezbollah operative smuggled over the California border in the trunk of a car. Mahmoud Kourani was convicted in 2004 of supporting the terrorist group from Detroit.


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