January 5, 2006

US agents shot at, tension mounts on Mexico border

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - U.S. Border Patrol agents have come
under fire twice along the Rio Grande in Texas in recent days
amid rising tension on the frontier with Mexico, although no
one was reported wounded, U.S. authorities said on Thursday.

A Border Patrol spokesman said unknown gunmen fired on
agents on patrol in Brownsville, Texas, late on Wednesday. It
was not immediately clear if the shots came from Mexico or from
within the United States.

"Shots were fired, no one was injured and the FBI have
taken the case over," Jose Rodriguez, a spokesman for the
Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas, said by telephone.

Rodriguez said the shooting was the second along the same
stretch of the Rio Grande in the past week, after agents
patrolling the area in a launch on Friday came under a volley
of gunfire from Mexico.

"On that occasion the shooters were hiding in brush on the
Mexican side of the river ... The launch was struck by five
bullets, although there were no injuries," he said.

That incident came on the same day a Border Patrol agent
fatally shot a teenage Mexican immigrant as he crossed the
border near San Diego on December 30, triggering widespread
anger in Mexico and calls for a full investigation.

Speaking to Mexican diplomats late on Wednesday, President
Vicente Fox reiterated calls by the Mexican government for
clarification of the killing, and pledged to "ensure that total
justice is done in the case."

The 2,000-mile (3,200-km) U.S.-Mexico border has always
been dangerous, although violent attacks on Border Patrol
agents have risen in recent months, especially in Arizona,
where around half the 1.2 million undocumented immigrants
nabbed crossing from Mexico were detained last year.

The Tucson sector Border Patrol said attacks on agents
havroe almost doubled in recent months, and included cases in
which officers have been shot at, rammed with cars and pelted
with rocks by immigrants and smugglers.