At first sight it looked like the 2004 film Alien vs. Predator.
"Zetas Kidnap 'Anonymous' Member, Video Threatens To Expose Drug Cartel," said the AP story, published in The Huffington Post on Monday.
It stated that a member of the elite hackers group Anonymous in Veracruz, Mexico, was kidnapped by the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas, one of the most violent criminal groups in that country, and that the group declared in a video published on YouTube
that if he was not released by Friday Anonymous would release information about "police officers, journalists, taxi drivers and others working with the Zetas."
The retaliatory plan has apparently fallen into disarray, with some backing away from talk of a confrontation and others denying that a kidnapping ever occurred, the Guardian reported.
The Anonymous member in Veracruz was allegedly kidnapped by the Zetas while participating in Operation Paperstorm, an anti-drug cartel march that took place over three days in August.
The Facebook page of Operation Paperstorm said:
"Operation paperstorm is back! Create fliers supporting Anonymous, and spread them throughout your city/town. This time, we will be hitting 3 times throughout August. Once August 13th, Again the 20th, and for the finale, FreeTopiary posters will be spread the 29th"
The next day, another statement made public on the internet by the magazine Vanguardia
seemed to suggest a declaration of war against the Zetas, saying that it was a response to the demands of "the people" and vowing to reveal the contacts between the drug group and the Mexican government.
At the same time, however, the statement issued detailed instructions to "members" not to participate in the confrontation, which would be handled by "a special group dedicated to this issue."
"Nobody is going to call you cowards nor accuse you of abandoning your anonymous brothers in the cruelty of battle," said the statement, adding that "this is not a video game, this is a risky operation where your life and your family life is in danger."
Then, they recommended, "never identify yourself as Anonymous... never use the Guy Fawkes mask..."
In other words, this is not something for the everyday Anonymous member, but for a self appointed group...
The same day, the website of a local politician in the state of Tabasco, Gustavo Rosario, was hacked to include a sign saying "Es Zeta," meaning, that he belongs to the Zetas, with the signature of Anonymous.
But only hours later, according to the magazine Bitelia (Spanish), somebody posted in the Anonymous Mexico page on Facebook a total rejection of the hacking, saying "The article published by several electronic media outlets is totally fake!"
Since then, the page became unavailable.
On Tuesday, the daily El Universal said in a headline that "Anonymous declares war against Los Zetas," stating that the declaration was issued through the Twitter accounts @IberoAnon and @anonpshispano.
But according to PCMag, other Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous activity in the U.S., "@AnonymousIRC and @anonops, have made no mention of the cartel threat."
It seems the feud is not new. The alleged kidnapping occurred around the end of August, and according to the security site Stratfor, the video with the retaliatory threat from Anonymous was initially release October 6th. What happened between then and now, when the whole affair started to be widely publicized?
The Stratfor analysis warns of dire consequences if Anonymous carries out the threat:
"Loss of life will be a certain consequence if Anonymous releases the identities of individuals cooperating with cartels. Whether voluntarily or not, cooperating with criminal cartels in Mexico comes with the danger of retribution from rival cartels. Taxi drivers, typically victims of extortion or otherwise forced to act as lookouts or scouts, are particularly vulnerable. In areas such as Acapulco, Guerrero state, reports of murdered taxi drivers occur weekly. 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 Zetas, remember, are the same group that, according to information release by the U.S. Department of Justice,
was involved in the alleged plot of an Iranian group to murder the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, as well as Israelis and other. The Iranians allegedly paid a down payment of $100,000 to "Zetas" in Mexico so they could start to prepare the assassination plot.
Only that the alleged Zetas were, at least in this case, people working for law enforcement, either FBI or Mexican agents, that lured the not-so-sophisticated Iranians into a trap. Apparently, they believed that the Zetas were powerful enough to perform this string of murders in the nation's capital under some of the strictest security arrangements in the world. Still, it seems difficult to explain their moves.
A similar thing may been happening now. All of a sudden, there is a group - Anonymous - strong, organized, disciplined, powerful, invincible enough to take on the evil Zetas.
Only that, according to a source close to some of the groups that operate under the name Anonymous, the opposite is true.
Even El Universal clarifies at the end of every article dedicated to the topic that Anonymous is a collective name adopted by different groups in order to carry out actions in support of free speech, Internet independence, and against different organizations on a global level.
"It is not a real group but a name that people attach meaning to," the source said. "The point of the name is obvious, anyone can say that they are part of Anonymous. There is no initiation for members, and even if you are a member you don't have responsibility of anything, it is a tag you can put when you are online, it’s part of your online persona, it is what makes the internet part of the wild west."
"Anonymous as a group with hierarchy and secrete membership is a construction of the media. There may be contact between different members, but it is not a requirement."