Mexican police wound American officials in fire-fight
The office of Mexico's attorney general confirmed that two US embassy employees were shot and wounded when their car came under fire south of Mexico City on August 24. According to the AFP wire service, "The two are from the US embassy," the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the shooting took place on a highway between Mexico City and Cuernavaca. The two embassy employees were taken to hospital in Cuernavaca, which is about 55 miles south of Mexico City. One was shot in the hand and stomach, while the other suffered a wound to the leg. The vehicle in which they were travelling was armored.
The vehicle in which the pair was travelling had diplomatic plates, and there were other persons riding with them, according to the attorney general's office. Mexican media reported that the car was riddled with bullet holes. Following the attack, Mexican army units and police shut down a 7 mile stretch of the highway between Mexico City and Cuernavaca.
The American embassy could not confirm the reports. "We're looking into the reports but cannot provide or confirm details," said US embassy spokesman Alex Featherstone. The embassy would not release the names of the wounded embassy employees.
The Mexican navy claims that Mexican federal police fired on the U.S. Embassy vehicle and wounded two U.S. government employees when their vehicle drove into a rural area where Mexican law enforcement was seeking to arrest criminals. The Navy said in a written statement that federal police shot the U.S. vehicle, but its description of the incident left out key details. While the Navy report noted that four vehicles opened fire on the Americans, it was not clear whether the vehicles actually carried federal police officers. Raids made by Mexican law enforcement and military have revealed that narcoterrorists make liberal use of police and military uniforms, along with military-grade weapons such as heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.
However, a US official said that all the shots were fired by federal police officers who are currently being interrogated by Mexican law enforcement. The embassy employees were on their way to do training or related work at a nearby military base. According to AP, the official said "Apparently the police were looking for some bad guys and they ran into each other," said the official, who agreed to discuss the incident only if not quoted by name. "It looks like it was just a bad mistake ... they just shot and kept shooting."
The Mexican Navy said the embassy vehicle, an SUV, was heading down a dirt road to the military installation when a carload of gunmen opened fire on the Americans and chased them and a Navy officer companion. The area is known to be frequented by criminals, narcoterrorists and leftist rebels.
The Americans' SUV attempted to escape, but another three vehicles joined the first vehicle and also opened fire. When the Mexican naval captain travelling with the embassy employees called for help, Federal police officers and Mexican soldiers then appeared, according to the Navy statement. The Mexican naval captain was not injured.
The U.S. government spokesman claimed that the wounded American officials are not agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration or FBI, but did not identify which agency they work for. Observers note that the Central Intelligence Agency is also involved in the drug wars being conducted in Latin America.
"We are working with Mexican authorities to investigate an incident this morning in which two employees of our Embassy in Mexico City came under attack by unknown assailants. They are receiving appropriate medical care and are in stable condition. We have no further information to share at this time," said Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman in Washington.
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More than 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence since former President Felipe Calderon deployed soldiers to combat the narco-terrorists in 2006.
The United States cooperates closely with Mexico under the $1.6 billion Merida Initiative, which provides training for Mexican law enforcement officials as well as equipment to combat drug trafficking.
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