Mexico Police: Drug Smugglers Who Posed as Soldiers Arrested

Federal police said Friday they have arrested two drug smugglers who strained Mexico's relations with the United States by disguising themselves as Mexican soldiers and confronting Texas lawmen.

Oscar Alonso Candelaria Escajeda and Ivan Gandara Trejo, were detained Thursday in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, according to a news release from the federal public security secretary.

It said that the two disguised themselves as Mexican soldiers and crossed the Rio Grande into Hudspeth County, Texas, in January 2006.

Texas lawmen spotted three vehicles, including at least one a military-style Humvee, and tried to halt them near Neely's Crossing, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of El Paso, on suspicion they were loaded with marijuana.

The smugglers escaped back across the border without a shot fired, abandoning more than a half-ton of marijuana as they fled.

U.S. authorities initially believed the men were Mexican soldiers and the incident strained relations between the two nations before U.S. officials said they accepted Mexican assurances that the smugglers were only disguised as soldiers.

An official from Mexico's Attorney General's Office said the two are believed to be members of the Juarez drug cartel. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly.

Candelaria Escajeda also faces drug smuggling and possession charges filed in West Texas in December 2006, the news release said.