AP Reports “Strong Circumstantial Evidence” Cartel Involved in Tres Marias Hit

The AP presents as exclusive news something that has been obvious for weeks: it appears likely a drug cartel–the Beltran Leyva Cartel–targeted two American CIA officers for assassination.

A senior U.S. official says there is strong circumstantial evidence that Mexican federal police who fired on a U.S. embassy vehicle, wounding two CIA agents, were working for organized crime on a targeted assassination attempt.

Let’s be clear what this is: it is not news that a cartel was likely behind this hit, nor that the hit was intentional. Rather, what’s new is that a single US official will admit as much in anonymous quotes, even while the AP’s Mexican sources are much less coy about this likelihood, and one second-hand source in the article says the attack was an attempt to annihilate all three passengers of the car.

Raul Benitez, a security expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, said Mexican military sources have told him that “the attack was not an error,” and “the objective was to annihilate the three passengers in the car.”

“The same car with the same people had been going up and back (to the marine training camp) for a week, so perhaps some lookout who worked for drug traffickers informed the police, or the Beltrans” about the vehicle, Benitez said.

Though that story, too, is inconsistent with the bullet patterns on the car, which were clearly focused primarily on the guy in the passenger seat, avoiding almost entirely the Navy captain who was in the back seat. That is, the attackers were targeting the Americans, and probably one of them more aggressively than the other (remember that one of them was on a temporary trip to Mexico, whereas the other was stationed at the Embassy).

All sources still seem a bit credulous about what the CIA officers were doing however, repeating earlier reports they were headed to a military base (though not specifying the CIA officers-who-would-sound-more-like-JSOC-guys were training Mexicans in sharp-shooting).

The CIA agents were heading down a dirt road to the military installation with a Mexican Navy captain in the vehicle when a carload of gunmen opened fire on them and chased them.

I’ve laid out here why it would be well to at least question that story: the description of where they were headed doesn’t make sense, the local press seemed to hint at other activities, and so on.

In any case, Mexicans appear much readier to admit that Mexico’s cartels are both knowledgeable of and responding to Americans fighting the drug war in Mexico than Americans are. That’s the news in this story.

Did the CIA Agents in Mexico Shoot at Their Pursuers?

The NYT’s story on the CIA officers shot at in Mexico–and possibly the WaPo one as well–appear to be partly a response to the publication of the CIA connection in Mexico’s lefty La Jornada, which published a series of stories on the event yesterday.  But there are details in those stories not treated in the US stories I’ve seen–details that increase my questions about whether the CIA guys shot at their pursuers.

The NYT, for example, repeats the Mexico Navy’s clarification of its original release that their captain wasn’t actually driving the car, but was sitting in the back seat.

The Mexican Navy said Tuesday in a statement that an American was driving the vehicle and that during the attack the captain, who was handling logistics and translating for the men, remained in the back seat calling for help on his cellphone.

The men were wounded, the Navy said, when the rain of bullets managed to tear through the car’s protective armor.

This appears to be an attempt to answer how the Americans got hurt inside a bullet proof car. But it actually presents more problems than it answers. The pictures of the Land Cruiser show three main kinds of bullet damage to the car: the tires appear to have been shot out (and something may have happened to the back right wheel), at least four bullets hit–and may have pierced–the rear window of the vehicle, and a ton of shots hit–but don’t appear to have pierced–the passenger window. But there appears to be less damage to the driver side, mostly bullets in the steel. Did the bullets enter the rear window and go past the Mexican captain to injure Americans in the front seat? And how do such shots injure people in the leg and stomach–through the steel doors? Remember, too, that some reports say 30 bullets hit the car, but 60 shell casings were found at the scene.

Which is why I find it interesting that Mexico’s Attorney General is asking the Federales for the guns used in the attack.

Oh, and by the way, according to this article, the CIA officers were shooting instructors who were training the Mexican Navy’s special forces on, among other things, sharpshooting.  Are you telling me shooting instructors had no guns in the car–not even the Mexican Navy captain–as reports say over and over?

Though of course if they were really training the Navy on shooting, it’d be more likely that they were JSOC or retired JSOC, which might explain why all these stories came out saying they’re CIA, which is bad, but still not as bad as active duty military would be.

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