Members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous who threatened to post identifying information online about the civilian associates of Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s most powerful and violent drug cartels, have backed down just days before the November 5 target date for their operation.
The sudden withdrawal comes by way of a report in Mexican newspaper Milenio, published online Sunday night, which features comments from two self-identified Anonymous Operation Cartel participants, Skill3r and Glyniss Paroubek.
“We didn’t want irresponsible administrators to condemn participants [in the Operation] to death,” the two Anonymous spokespeople are quoted as saying (translated). “We’ve discussed it extensively and and we all decided to remove it.”
The pullback comes not a moment too soon. Los Zetas has reportedly begun hunting down the hackers. As global intelligence firm Stratfor reported on Tuesday:
We have seen reports that Los Zetas are deploying their own teams of computer experts to track those individuals involved in the online anti-cartel campaign, which indicates that the criminal group is taking the campaign very seriously. Those individuals involved face the risk of abduction, injury and death — judging by how Los Zetas has dealt with threats in the past.
Stratfor earlier sounded a similarly dire note in its first report on the Anonymous campaign on October 28, writing: “Loss of life will be a certain consequence if Anonymous releases the identities of individuals cooperating with cartels… The validity of the information Anonymous has threatened to reveal is uncertain, as it might not have been vetted. This could pose an indiscriminate danger to individuals mentioned in whatever Anonymous decides to release.”
The firm’s analysis echoes warnings given by former Drug Enforcement Agency international chief Mike Vigil, who told the Houston Chronicle on Saturday that if the hackers went ahead with their plans, those identified as Los Zetas operatives would almost certainly be targeted by rival cartels.