View attachment 19373 MEXICO CITY—An agent for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was shot and killed and another agent wounded by unknown gunmen in central Mexico on Tuesday, according to U.S. officials.
The men were driving from Mexico City to Monterrey in the central state of San Luis Potosi when they were attacked. U.S. officials condemned the attack and said they would work with Mexican counterparts to bring the assailants to justice.
"Let me be clear: any act of violence against our ICE personnel…is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.
The wounded agent was shot in the arm and leg and was in stable condition, Ms. Napolitano said. U.S. officials would not speculate about the motive for the attack.
The incident is sure to raise fresh concerns about Mexico's deteriorating security in Washington and elsewhere. Drug-related violence in Mexico has claimed at least 34,000 lives in the past four years as rival drug gangs have fought for control of lucrative drug-smuggling routes.
"In terms of the U.S. law enforcement community, this will greatly raise the significance of Mexico," said George Grayson, an expert on Mexico and drug trafficking at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
In a statement, Mexico's foreign ministry said that Mexico's federal police were working with San Luis Potosi state authorities to bring the crime's perpetrators to justice. Mexico "energetically condemns this grave act of violence and expresses its solidarity with the government of the United States and with the families of the attacked persons," the statement said.
Attacks on U.S. officials are rare.
In 1985, the torture-murder of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique Camarena, strained bilateral ties and ultimately led to the arrest of several high-ranking Mexican drug lords.
More recently, in December, a U.S. border patrol agent was fatally shot just north of the border in Arizona while trying to catch bandits who target illegal immigrants cross the border.
And three people with ties to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez, including a pregnant consular employee, were killed in March, prompting the State Department to tighten security at its diplomatic missions in northern Mexico.
The U.S. provides equipment and some training to Mexican security forces under the $1.4 billion Merida Plan, and U.S. intelligence is credited with helping Mexico catch a score of leading drug kingpins in the past two years.
ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, routinely investigates narcotics smuggling as well as money laundering, organized crime and human smuggling.
Violence between organized crime gangs in Mexico is spreading far beyond northern states where most of the killings take place, affecting Mexico's northern business capital of Monterrey, Mexico's second city of Guadalajara, and even into tourist resorts like Acapulco.
San Luis Potosi has also gotten caught up in the violence, with a spate of recent drug-related killings. A shootout in a major supermarket as well as a leading university in the state capital caused panic among residents last week.
Drug gangs have also branched out into activities like human smuggling. Last year, a gang massacred 72 Central and South American migrants who were on their way to the U.S.
Jose De Cordoba and David Luhnow
The Wall Street Journal
Feb. 16, 2011
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