Arizonan Muslim FBI informer and bounty hunter arrested in Mexico
- The following article, attributed to Republic staff and wire reports,
appeared on page A4 of the Monday May 26, 2003 edition of The Arizona
Republic. As enemy agents go, Collins is one strange character.
BOUNTY HUNTER ARRESTED IN MEXICO; ASSAULT RIFLE FOUND
Phoenix bounty hunter Aukai Collins, a former Islamic holy warrior, FBI
informant and author of <My Jihad>, is in jail in northern Mexico on
weapons and illegal immigration charges after authorities found an assault
weapon and grenades in his vehicle.
Collins, 29, is believed to have been seeking a fugitive from Arizona
wanted on drug trafficking charges when he was arrested Tuesday by state
police in the town of Topia, in the northern state of Durango.
Collins and his companion, Mariel Fernanda Santillan of Argentina, have
been charged with transporting weapons in violation of Mexico's federal
firearms law and entering the country illegally, according to the attorney
general's office in Mexico.
They were being held Sunday at a jail in Durango.
Collins told Mexican authorities that he and Santillan crossed the border at
A Mexican newspaper reported Collins was carrying an AK-47 assault rifle when
he was arrested. Police also found six ammunition cartridges containing
270 rounds, 12 grenades and night-vision equipment.
A conviction on the federal firearms charges could carry penalties of at least
ten years in jail, the attorney general's office said.
At least eight American bail enforcement agents are currently jailed in
Mexico on a variety of charges, said Bob Burton, Tucson-based head of the
National Enforcement Agency, a licensing organization for bounty hunters.
Burton said he did not know why Collins would be carrying such high-powered
ammunition. The majority of the agency's 1800 licensed agents carry mace,
a pistol and handcuffs, Burton said.
Collins was not licensed as a bounty hunter by the National Enforcement
Burton, who taught Collins at a National Institute of Bail Enforcement
seminar in Colorado, said he remembers him as arrogant and wrapped up in
Agents are generally discouraged from trying to recover suspects south of the
border, he said.
"You don't go to Mexico to pick people up," Burton said. "We have zero
authority outside the U.S. As soon as we cross the border, we go from an
American bail recovery agent to a kidnapper."
Bail enforcement agents traditionally are hired by bail bond companies to
track people who skipped their court hearings and owe money to the bond
company. Agents track absconders through credit-card statements, bank
withdrawals and e-mail transmissions.
Collins told Mexican authorities that he is a Muslim but that he does not
belong to any terrorist organization or practice terrorism, the attorney
general's office said. Charges against Collins and Santillan are not related
in any way to terrorism, a spokesman for the attorney general's office
In the 2002 memoir <My Jihad>, Collins recounted his journey into the
world of Islamic extremism, from his jailhouse conversion to Islam as a
troubled teenager in San Diego to combat in Chechnya and an invitation to
meet with Osama bin Laden at a terror camp.
Disillusioned by his experiences abroad, Collins approached the U.S.
government in 1996 to share information and become a paid informant of the
The version of events in his book, which cannot be independently verified,
added to evidence that U.S. intelligence officials missed opportunities to
unravel the links to terrorists prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Collins said he gave FBI agents information about Hani Hanjour, a former
University of Arizona student who piloted the airliner that slammed into the
Pentagon on September 11th. Collins met Hanjour and other Muslim students
in the East Valley in 1996. The FBI denies Collins' story.
While in Chechnya, Collins lost a leg to a land mine, prompting him to
start the Victims of Land Mines Assistance Group in 1998 while living in
>You may very well be right. I was thinking along
>those lines too, except that the descriptions of this
>guy sound like he'd be more trouble to the CIA than
>he'd be worth. But then, if he screwed up, they can
>just ditch him and be done with it.
>You're likely right, however, that pretty soon the
>Mexicans will be told that this guy is too important
>to the "war on terror" to leave languishing in some
>Who knows what he might have been up to?! The Granma
>weekly website carried a story a few days ago about
>how the Miami-based anti-Cuban terrorists planned to
>put bombs in the Copa Cobana nightclub on three
>separate occasions in the 1990s and 2000s. The aim
>was to kill about 100 tourists and blow a big hole in
>Cuba's tourism industry.
>Perhaps this mujahid bountyhunter's grenades were
>destined for Cuba or Venezuela or for some rally in
>Mexico. Actually the Miami terrorists were planning
>to use C-4 explosive in Havana, so they probably
>wouldn't want primitive hand grenades.
>A one man nut case with an AK-47 and grenades might
>have appeared useful to cause some provocation
>somewhere, or maybe even convince the Mexicans that
>they are being attacked by "terrorists" and so will
>need to let the Americans take over their secret
>police -- the way that the US runs security in
>Pakistan and Yemen apparently.
Given that Cuba is a short boatride from the Gusano
community in south Florida, it seems unlikely that
anti-Cuban activity would go through Mexico (unless
it was an attack on the Cuban embassy in Mexico
City). One thing does occur to me. Perhaps he was
a one-man phony Zapatista attack. Conceivably someone
that well-armed could by himself make a large enough
attack on some landlord in Chiapas to convince the
Mexican government that the uprising had begun again
and that they needed American aid to "fight the
terrorists". Too bad the Zapatistas aren't really
fighting. It's not as if things in Mexico were getting
better for the peasants and Natives.
Given the real terrorism the Cubans had suffered,
I wouldn't blame Fidel one bit if he...
1) Asked the United Nations to impose economic sanctions
on the USA and asked fleets of member nations to
blockade the American coast to enforce the sanctions.
2) Declared portions of Florida south of the 27th
parallel to be a "no fly zone" and sent Cuban
aircraft to enforce it.
3) Declared American anti-aircraft fire and intercept
flights in south Florida to be an "aggressive act".
4) Demanded that America destroy its weapons of mass
destruction and admit U.N. inspectors to verify that
they had been destroyed.
5) Declared the 2000 elections fraudulent and say of
President Bush, "There needs to be a regime change!"