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Unusual Illegal Smuggling, Border Crossing Draws Attention of U.S. Officials

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Authorities in California were on the lookout Tuesday for a man believed to be from the Middle East who paid a higher-than-usual smuggling fee to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, but officials said the case had no connection to terrorism.

"This is not a terrorist warning," said Homeland Security spokeswoman Lauren Mack.

The man, who was not identified, entered the United States Monday near Tecate, Mexico -- a small border crossing station about 70 miles east of San Diego.

It was unclear how he crossed the border. Once across, the man got into a Ford F150 pickup, according to a witness who alerted U.S. immigration officials. Agents said they believed the information to be credible, Mack said.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement learned the man had paid more than the typical $1,500 to $2,000 smuggling fee and notified the California Highway Patrol, which put out a "soft lookout" -- a lower-priorty alert -- for the Interstate 5 corridor.

"It's not uncommon for us to alert the local highway patrol when we are following up on smuggling activity," Mack said.

The man got into a 2000 Ford pickup with California plates, Mack said. Department of Motor Vehicle records show the plate was registered to a Yolanda Rodriguez. The vehicle was believed to be headed to Northern California.

State officials could not release the vehicle's registered address.

ABC News, citing anonymous sources, reported over the weekend that al-Qaida planned to send terrorists across the Mexican border into the United States, and that suicide attacks were being planned in the city, possibly using trucks.

A woman with a South African passport was arrested near the U.S.-Mexico border last month when she tried to board a flight to New York with more than $6,000 in cash. Officials told The Associated Press they were investigating whether Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed, 48, had ties to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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