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Money transfers prompt terrorism, human trafficking concerns on Arizona border

(Greg Bryan/Arizona Daily Star Via AP, File)

PHOENIX — Money being sent from the Middle East to two Mexican cities is prompting concerns of terrorism and human trafficking in Arizona.

Investigators began searching for links between the Middle East and the Arizona-Mexico border after six Middle Eastern men were arrested crossing the border in November. Agents ran background checks on all the men and no “derogatory information” was found.

Investigators found suspicious wire transfers sent from people with Middle Eastern names and from countries in the Middle East and Africa to two cities in Mexico: Tapachula and Nogales.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office said Tapachula received the most money from a sender with a Middle Eastern connection. The city in southern Mexico is a hub of human smuggling for migrants.

Nogales, located on the border of Arizona and Mexico, received the second-most amount of money.

Brnovich said he is worried that people with “ill intentions” may try to cross the border from Mexico into Arizona.

“Is it because they are being smuggled from the Middle East into the United States? Is it because maybe there are terrorism organizations that involved, either in funding or the human-trafficking trade?”

Brnovich said his office is working with the U.S. attorney general to figure out why money is being sent from the Middle East to Mexico. He said one of the most important parts of any investigation is to figure out the basics of funding: Who is sending money to whom and how often.

“For us to effectively be able to look at where money is coming from and being sent to is so important as a tool for law enforcement,” he said.

Brnovich said the investigation is still underway.

Gov. Doug Ducey said he is unaware of the investigation but works closely with Brnovich’s office when necessary.

KTAR’s Cooper Rummell contributed to this report.

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