Security chief says terrorists have been arrested on Texas border 9.12.07
DALLAS — Texas' top homeland security official said Wednesday that terrorists with ties to Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaida have been arrested crossing the Texas border with Mexico in recent years.
"Has there ever been anyone linked to terrorism arrested?" Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw said in a speech to the North Texas Crime Commission. "Yes, there was."
His remarks appear to be among the most specific on the topic of terrorism arrests along the Texas-Mexico border. Local and elected officials have alluded to this happening but have been short on details.
Leticia Zamarripa, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in El Paso, said Wednesday she was unaware of any border arrests of people with terrorist ties. An ICE spokeswoman in San Antonio did not return phone messages left by The Associated Press. U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Lloyd M. Easterling was unable to comment.
However, McCraw's remarks are similar to those made recently by National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, who last month told the El Paso Times that a small number of people with known links to terrorist organizations have been caught crossing the border.
McCraw identified the most notable figure captured as Farida Goolam Mahomed Ahmed, who was arrested in July 2004 at the McAllen airport. She carried $7,300 in various currencies and a South African passport with pages missing. Federal officials later learned she waded across the Rio Grande.
After her arrest, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a release saying she was wanted for questioning about the bombing of a U.S. Consulate office, jibing with similar statements from a U.S. congressman.
But the department quickly retracted the terrorism connection, calling it "inaccurate on several levels." Michael Shelby, then the U.S. attorney in Houston, said in January 2005 that any suggestion Ahmed was involved in terrorism "is in error."
According to federal court records, Ahmed pleaded guilty to improper entry by an alien, making a false statement and false use of a passport. She was sentenced to time served and deported to South Africa. Other details of the case were sealed.
But on Wednesday, McCraw described Ahmed as having ties to an insurgent group in Pakistan and whose specialty was smuggling Afghanis and other foreign nationals across the border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Friel could not confirm details about Ahmed on Wednesday.
McCraw also said that since March 2006, 347 people from what he called "terrorism-related countries" have been arrested crossing the border in Texas. The number of Iraqis captured at the border has tripled since last year, he said.
"A porous border without question is a national security threat," he said.
Terrorism isn't the only concern for homeland security officials in Texas, McCraw said. The state's size, population and geography make it susceptible to all sorts of disasters, both natural and man-made. Emergency responders must also be prepared for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and wildfires, he said.
The state has made significant strides in emergency planning since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Hurricane Rita, McCraw said. Plans include cooperating with large private companies, including grocery stores, Wal-Mart and the oil industry, to help the state respond during disasters.
"This is not a shot at FEMA, but we can't depend on FEMA to protect Texas," McCraw said. "The governor's mandate has made it clear: If those buses don't come, we better have our own buses. If that food doesn't come,we better have our own food. If that water doesn't come, we better have our own water to take care of Texas." source
16 Iraquis arrested sneaking across border
Labels: arrested, BORDER, terrorist, texas