Thursday, 2 December 2021

Mexico arrests Indian-born American in US consular official’s shooting

Mexican authorities have arrested an American citizen believed to be behind the shooting of an official at the U.S. consulate in the western city of Guadalajara. The alleged gunman was detained on Sunday after he was caught on security cameras shooting the consulate employee at close range in his car in Guadalajara on Friday. Zafar Zia, a 31-year-old Indian-born American citizen, has been named as the suspect, according to sources at the Jalisco state prosecutor’s office. The federal Attorney General’s Office has not confirmed the suspect’s identity.  While investigators are still looking at a motive, the shooting may have been related to a visa dispute. The suspect will now be deported to the United States to determine his legal situation, according to the federal Attorney General’s Office.  The office expressed its ‘deep dismay at this cowardly attack’ and said the victim remained hospitalized in stable condition. The U.S. Embassy has not publicly identified the official who was shot. Local media identified him as Christopher Ashcraft, whose profile on social networking sites listed him as a consular officer in Guadalajara since 2016. The FBI had offered a $20,000 reward for information on the attacker, and surveillance cameras photos of him had been widely circulated.  Jalisco state is dominated by the hyper-violent Jalisco New Generation cartel. There was no immediate evidence of any cartel link to the attack.

– US embassy urges caution –

The US consulate in Guadalajara posted surveillance camera footage showing the official, dressed in shorts and a sleeveless shirt, paying a parking ticket at an automated machine. The gunman is then seen following him. Another security camera shows the gunman later standing outside the garage. When the official’s black car stops at the exit, the shooter raises his gun and opens fire. A bullet hole is seen on the windshield and the official opens his door before the footage ends. Jalisco’s state attorney general, Eduardo Almaguer, described the shooting as a “direct attack” on Saturday. US Secretary of State John Kerry thanked the Mexican government for the “swift and decisive arrest of a suspect in the heinous attack against our Foreign Service Officer colleague.” “The safety and security of US citizens and our diplomatic staff overseas are among our highest priorities,” Kerry said in a statement, wishing the official a “speedy recovery.” Friday’s shooting prompted the US embassy to issue a security message on Saturday urging US citizens in Guadalajara to “restrict their movements outside their homes and places of work to those truly essential.” “They should also take care not to fall into predictable patterns for those movements that are essential,” the message continued. “They should vary the times and routes of their movements.” Guadalajara and the rest of the state have been hit by violence perpetrated by the powerful Jalisco New Generation drug cartel in recent years.

– Previous attacks –

US officials have faced attacks in Mexico in the past. In 2010, a consular official, her husband and the spouse of another consular official were killed in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez, which was mired in an ultra-violent drug war at the time. An alleged leader of the Barrio Azteca gang was extradited to the United States, where he was sentenced to life in prison for ordering the murder. A year later, gunmen from the Zetas drug cartel opened fire on a vehicle of two US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in the northern state of San Luis Potosi, killing one of the officers. In 2012, two US officials — widely reported to be CIA agents — and a Mexican marine where wounded when they were shot at by federal police officers as they drove south of Mexico City. Fourteen officers were charged with using excessive force, with officials citing a case of mistaken identity.

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