United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers on Saturday detained at least fourteen Mexican soldiers for allegedly “crossing into US territory” in El Paso, Texas, bordering Juarez, Chihuahua. The Mexican soldiers belonged to Ninth Cavalry Motorized Regiment [Noveno Regimiento de Caballería Motorizado], according to the Mexican press reports. In the images now widely circulating, credited to Mexico’s defense ministry, the Mexican soldiers appeared to be handcuffed by CBP agents at the Cordova-Americas International Bridge and were seen directed inside the CBP patrolling vehicle.
US Customs and Border protection also reportedly seized the soldiers’ military weapons and their vehicles, later returned after the Mexican army officers came for them, reports suggest. About half a dozen Mexican army soldiers were walked via a rope in their full tactical gear then were made to pat down on the side of the road by a border bridge while US CBP agents surveilled them.
The eyewitnesses told on-ground reporters that the soldiers crossed the bridge shortly after midnight in at least two Mexican military trucks as they were intercepted by uniformed US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agents. Of those, seven soldiers were led to the port of entry’s facilities. Videos shared on a public group on Facebook showed a Mexican military vehicle blocked by CBP at the base of the American Bridge just miles from the checkpoint.
In a statement released to the Associated Press, US Customs and Border Protection said that the Mexican military vehicles had crossed the bridge that links El Paso to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and “did not realize they had entered the US.” The inadvertent crossings by the Mexican military forces may have been caused because they could be the new recruits sent to the city. The soldiers may not have been well acquainted with the city, residents told ground reporters. The US CBP said in the statement that one of the Mexican soldiers “was assessed a civil penalty after US officers discovered a personal use amount of marijuana in his possession.” All 14 soldiers, their equipment, and vehicles were returned to Mexico later when enquired by the Mexican Army. Mexico’s Defense Department did not immediately respond to comments to the agencies.