February 9, 2006

Violence jumps on US-Mexican border

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Attacks on American border patrol
agents along the U.S. border with Mexico have jumped more than
100 percent in the last year, Homeland Security officials said
on Thursday.

"There has been an over-100 percent increase in the last
fiscal year in border violence aimed at our Border Patrol
agents, and that ranges from gunshots fired across the border
to rocks being thrown, sometimes flaming rocks," said Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar told a news conference
there were 778 assaults against Border Patrol officers in the
last fiscal year. So far this fiscal year, which began in
October, there have been 192 attacks, he said. He did not give
the previous year's figure.

He showed a video clip of border patrol agents being pinned
against the fence marking the border as people on the Mexican
side threw huge rocks over the fence.

Chertoff said the increased violence was due in part to
heightened pressure on criminal organizations that operate
around the border area.

"But if they think they're going to back us down or chase
us away, the answer to that is 'no'," he said.

"Our Border Patrol is properly trained, they have rules of
engagement. They are entitled to defend themselves. They will
defend themselves. We will support them in applying these rules
of engagement."

Chertoff said the U.S. government was working with Mexico
to deal with the border violence.

Last month the U.S. envoy to Mexico accused the Mexican
government of failing to control crime and said the rampant
crime near the border "highlights the inability of the Mexican
government to police its own communities."

Border violence in Mexico has increased since President
Vicente Fox declared a war on drug cartels a year ago.