WASHINGTON, D.C.—A U.S. Border Patrol spokesman in Laredo, Texas, confirmed this afternoon that the patrol has been put on the lookout for a large truck full of cyanide that was apparently hijacked in northern Mexico and might be on its way to the U.S. As the search for the missing truck intensified, the FBI was also put on alert.
Cyanide has long been regarded as a possible biochemical terrorist weapon. In the 1980s, a far-right group stole barrels of cyanide with the intent of dumping it into the water supply of a big city.
Other agencies denied any knowledge of the hijacking. The FBI passed questions to the Texas Department of Public Safety. A spokesperson there said she couldn’t talk about it.
Texas state representative Kino Flores said he was notified of the incident by the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Homeland Securities agency in Washington. Richard Sanchez, Flores’s chief of staff, said they are being careful because little is known. According to him, the facts so far: On Friday morning a Mexican man’s 18-wheeler was hijacked by three men. There were 100 drums of cyanide in the truck. The hijacking occurred in Hidalgo, Mexico. The police sent out an all points bulletin to all law enforcement branches along the border.
The chief of police for Hildago state said the truck driver thought the hijackers were Mexican but couldn’t be sure. He said 1500 police officers were searching for the vehicle throughout the country.
Alfonzo Moreno, intelligence supervisor of the Laredo Border Patrol, said the agency had been placed on alert through internal notification.
NBC5 in Chicago, which first reported the story Monday, said “a copy of a Department of Public Safety teletype alert warns about the potentially deadly stolen cargo and the possibility it could be on its way to Texas.” He added: “Agents have turned a watchful eye to Texas highways after three men with guns hijacked a trailer along a Mexican highway loaded with 100 drums of cyanide, so nasty a dose the size of a quarter could be enough to kill.”
Roger Maier of U.S. Customs told the station, “Essentially, we’re taking a hard look at every car, every truck, every pedestrian that’s arriving.” Here’s a description of the truck: White 2002 Kenworth tractor trailer, Mexico license plate number 980CZ6.
Gordon Johndroe of Homeland Security laughed at the story, claiming it was just another “stolen truck story.”
Additional reporting: Cassie Lewis, Gabrielle Jackson, Meri Mir
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 14, 2002