Attorney General Eduardo Almaguer of the Mexican state of Jalisco said today, “The detention of the aggressor against the consular agent has been achieved.” Almaguer was referring to the shooting of U.S. consular official Christopher Ashcraft on January 6. The suspect has been handed over to Mexico’s federal attorney general’s office.

Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Mexican authorities “for their swift and decisive arrest of a suspect in the heinous attack against our foreign service officer colleague.” Neither Almaguer nor Kerry provided any further details about the victim or the shooter. However, Mexican media has identified the culprit as an American citizen of Indian origin, Zafar Zia (31). Zia was arrested as part of a joint operation involving the FBI, DEA and Jalisco law enforcement. He was traced to the wealthy Providencia neighborhood early today in Guadalajara, the state capital.

Christopher Ashcraft

When he was arrested, Zia was armed with a .38 caliber pistol. He also had in his possession a Honda Accord with California license plates, a wig and sunglasses, and 336 grams of marijuana. At the time of the attack, Zia was wearing scrubs: the work clothing of medical personnel such as nurses.

Ashcraft was leaving a local gym, according to the Washington Post, when he was shot. A friend told the newspaper that Ashcraft is now recovering at a Guadalajara hospital and will be returned to the U.S. The friend said that “had no idea what happened,” and thought that the shooting “wasn’t random.” He was wounded in the upper chest. No motive has been ventured for the attack, even though Guadalajara is home to the Jalisco New Generation narcoterrorist organization. The organization has murdered dozens of police officers and officials but attacks on U.S. officials are less common. In 2010, three U.S. citizens linked to the American consulate in Juarez were killed, ostensibly by one of the drug cartels. 

Following the attack, the U.S. embassy released a statement saying, “US citizens in the Guadalajara area are urged to restrict their movements outside their homes and places of work to those truly essential. They should also take care not to fall into predictable patterns for those movements that are essential. They should vary the times and routes of their movements.”

While the culprit was not further identified by Mexican or American authorities, the name “Zia” is common among Muslims living in the Indian subcontinent, including India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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