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Amid controversy, new prosecutors in Arizona cases

In this Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010 picture, an American flag on a resident's home waves in the breeze near a U.S. Border Patrol truck blocking the road leading to a search area near where U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry, 40, was killed northwest of Nogales, Ariz. The ATF is under fire over a Phoenix-based gun-trafficking investigation called "Fast and Furious," in which agents allowed hundreds of guns into the hands of straw purchasers in hopes of making a bigger case. Two of those weapons were found in December 2010 at the fatal shooting of Terry, igniting a scandal that has resulted in a congressional investigation and review by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General. (AP Photo/Arizona Daily Star, Greg Bryan)

Federal prosecutors from Los Angeles and San Diego will take over cases arising from a flawed law enforcement operation in Arizona that is being investigated by Congress and the inspector general’s office at the Justice Department.

The change comes at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, which was deeply involved with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in carrying out Operation Fast and Furious, the program aimed at taking down major arms traffickers.

A congressional investigation of the program has turned up evidence that ATF lost track of many of the more than 2,000 guns linked to the operation. The Justice Department inspector general also is conducting an inquiry at the request of Attorney General Eric Holder.

One of the cases that the new prosecutors will handle accuses a man of second-degree murder in a shootout that left Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry dead near the Arizona-Mexico border. Two guns recovered from the scene of that shooting were involved in Operation Fast and Furious. A separate case is against 20 low-level gun buyers who were allegedly supplying weapons illicitly to major gun traffickers.

On Tuesday, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the decision to switch prosecutors is clearly in the best interest of achieving just results and removes the apparent conflict of interest that Arizona prosecutors had in bringing cases from a mishandled operation. Issa chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that is conducting the investigation of the Operation.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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