Rumors that terrorists are being smuggled into the United States from camps in Mexico have been around for many years, but they seemed to gain traction around September 2014 when they were picked up by disinformation sites and have recurred frequently since.
These completely unsourced, unverified rumors were bolstered by equally unverified hysterics over a “prayer rug” that was purportedly found on the U.S.-Mexico border. There is no evidence that a “prayer rug” has ever been abandoned anywhere that people cross the international border on foot, and even if there was, it is not clear what sinister intent such a rug might signify.
There is no proof and there has never been any proof that there is an Islamic State training camp in Ciudad Juárez or anywhere else in Mexico, and Mexican authorities have not confirmed any existence of any such “terrorism training camp.”
This isn’t the first time that the claim has been made, either. The website JudicialWatch.org, which is well known for its fear-mongering, its untrue claims, and especially its frivolous lawsuits, made the initial report, relying heavily on innuendo and unnamed sources; the page, which is archived here, later disappeared from the website without redaction or comment:
The disturbing inside intelligence comes on the heels of news reports revealing that U.S. intelligence has picked up increased chatter among Islamist terror networks approaching the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. While these terrorists reportedly plan their attack just outside the U.S., President Obama admits that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to combat ISIS. “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” the commander-in-chief said this week during a White House press briefing. “I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggest that folks are getting a little further ahead of what we’re at than what we currently are.”
At the same time, a number of politicians and websites were picking up on the disinformation and spreading rumors of the supposed Islamic State camp located “just south of El Paso.” In a conference call with a conservative group, U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) said, without offering any proof to bolster his claims:
It is true that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juárez, or they were within the last few weeks.
Blogs and publications uncritically repeated those claims, and the ensuing rumor went viral. However, United States defense officials immediately shot down the reports and said there was “no credible information” that the Islamic State planned to attack the United States.
In a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing held in September 2014, Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Jennifer Lasley further addressed the claim:
To date, we have not had credible reporting that either Hezbollah or any other terrorist group has been taking advantage of our borders to move individuals in an out. It’s something we are always looking for, but to date, we have not seen credible evidence of that.
The exact same rumor re-surfaced in April 2015, once again spread by the disreputable Judicial Watch.org blog; it repeated its still-unverified claim (once again attributed to “unnamed sources”) and doubled down on the previously deleted report, claiming that fighters had been shuttled into the United States by Mexican human traffickers:
ISIS is operating a camp just a few miles from El Paso, Texas, according to Judicial Watch sources that include a Mexican Army field grade officer and a Mexican Federal Police Inspector.
The exact location where the terrorist group has established its base is around eight miles from the U.S. border in an area known as “Anapra” situated just west of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Another ISIS cell to the west of Ciudad Juárez, in Puerto Palomas, targets the New Mexico towns of Columbus and Deming for easy access to the United States, the same knowledgeable sources confirm.
During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.
This report included a photograph of what appears to be a desert encampment as “proof.” However, the photograph doesn’t show a “terrorist training camp” but the site of a Ciudad Juárez preschool. That image dates back to at least 2010.
There is not and has never been any credible evidence of an Islamic State training center anywhere in Mexico, much less that its fighters are being smuggled by “coyotes” into the United States. This story is fiction.