Sheriffs Babeu and Estrada: Iranian book discovered in desert is ‘disturbing'
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – A strange and alarming discovery in the desert near Casa Grande: A U.S. Border Patrol agent found a weathered book titled "In Memory of our Martyrs" on Tuesday along a route notorious for human and drug smuggling.
The book, published in Iran but written in English, features short biographies of Islamic militants and suicide bombers.
The Department of Homeland Security released a statement saying they have no credible information on terrorist groups operating along the southwest border.
"We work closely with our partners in law enforcement and intelligence communities as a matter of due diligence and law enforcement best practice, report anything found, no matter how significant or insignificant it may seem," a DHS official said Thursday night.
KGUN9 News repeatedly called Border Patrol in Tucson and their Phoenix headquarters, but never received a response.
Still, the discovery of the book is alarming to sheriffs in southern Arizona.
"This particular discovery is pretty disturbing because it can send a real, strong, negative, harmful message about hat can come across the border and what some of the intentions of people coming across the border are," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada. "This particular thing is obviously something we have not experienced before. It just raises the alert that we have to have and puts us on guard and on notice."
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu agrees with Estrada.
"We haven't found any materials in our sheriff's office similar to this … so it's alarming and concerning for us as law enforcement," Babeu said. "It shouldn't be surprising to a lot of people given the fact that have a lot of ‘OTMs' – other than Mexicans. We also have people coming from countries of interest.
Recent government reports show that thousands of people come illegally through the border from China and Europe, and dozens come from "countries of interest" like Yemen, Iran, Iraq and Iran.
However, Dr. Faten Ghosn, an expert on the Middle East and conflict and management at the University of Arizona, cautions reading too much into the nature of the book.
"I would not jump to terrorism – [the book] is not what we would consider a manual. Many groups that carry out terrorism are very rational. And this just doesn't seem like it's part of something bigger," said Ghosn, who believes that a terrorist would send a stronger message than a book celebrating suicide bombers – perhaps through a poem or a letter.