WASHINGTON (AFP) – Weapons smuggled into Mexico as part of a US sting operation — and then lost — have been linked to numerous killings, including that of an American federal agent, a congressional report disclosed Wednesday.
The report found that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) lost track of the weapons after allowing them to be smuggled into Mexico under an operation called “Fast and Furious.”
“This hapless plan allowed the guns in question to disappear out of the agency’s view,” said the report by Representative Darrel Issa and Senator Charles Grassley, both Republicans.
“As a result, this chain of events inevitably placed guns in the hands of violent criminals. ATF would only see these guns again after they turned up at a crime scene. Many of these recoveries involved loss of life,” it said.
Two of the weapons were found at the scene of the killing of Brian Terry, a border patrol agent who was shot and killed in Arizona December 14 while trying to apprehend armed men preying on illegal immigrants.
Terry’s family attended the hearing at which the report was made public.
The ATF program, which angered Mexico when it came to light, allowed hundreds of weapons to be smuggled into Mexico between 2009 and 2010 as part of a plan to capture major arms traffickers.
“ATF never achieved the laudable goal of dismantling a drug cartel. ATF never even got close,” the report said.
Instead, it said, “Operation Fast and Furious contributed to the increasing violence and deaths in Mexico.”
Issa said the program was approved at the highest levels of the US government, and that those responsible should be held accountable.
President Barack Obama has said neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder authorized the program and promised that consequences would flow from a Justice Department investigation.