A month after boldly declaring it would expose collaborators of Mexico’s violent Zetas drug cartel to retaliate for the kidnapping of a member, hacker group Anonymous is retreating from its threats to confront the cartel, saying the kidnapped member has been found. Others, however, say no one was ever kidnapped at all.
Anonymous made the threat in a YouTube video on Oct. 6, saying it was “tired of the criminal group the Zetas, which is dedicated to kidnapping, stealing and extortion,” and that it will fight back in a project dubbed #OpCartel with information instead of weapons. Anonymous gave no information about the kidnapping of its member except that it occurred in the Mexican state of Veracruz.
According to the Guardian, Anonymous chose to stand down because of reports that the Zetas were hiring their own security experts to track down the hackers and kill them.
Today, Anonymous’s IberoAmerica Web site published a post saying the kidnapped member had been found, and that they would give up their operation, writing:
On this day, our anonymous friend retained by the Zetas cartel has been released...and while bruised, is alive and well.
The Anonymous collective has decided by consensus not to disclose the information for now, as we understand that we can not ignore threats involving innocent civilians that have nothing to do with our actions.
Among the sites that warned Anonymous not to go forward with their plan was global intelligence site Stratfor, which said the name leak could have resulted in “abduction, injury and death.”
Software firm Testhats also published a warning blog post, saying the Anonymous plan was like “the boy scouts going after Al-Qaeda, they are not equipped or experienced to take on an operation of this kind.”
Spanish language site El Universal pointed out that the Zetas would retaliate by targeting not only Anonymous members, but also the policemen, politicians, businessmen and taxi drivers the hackers planned to expose. On Anonymous’s IberoAmerica Web site, it appeared the group was soliciting anonymous tips on cartel collaborators, making it likely innocent people could have been named and targeted.
Anonymous may also have been pressured to give up the operation by rising doubts about the kidnapping of an Anonymous member. “Not one person can name the victim, the date or a witness,” wrote @Mach2600 on Twitter. The Guardian reports that there is no police report filed to link to the original claim of a kidnapping.
It appears only one action ever came out of #OpCartel, in which a Web site was hacked and decorated with jack o' lanterns, accusing a former state prosecutor of being a Zeta:
Watch the original Anonymous video below: