War At US/Mexico Border Heating Up
Mexican criminal syndicates are stepping up their attacks on American agents
patrolling the border as officials of the Homeland Security Department intensify efforts to stem the flow of immigrants and drugs into the United States, American officials said this week.
In recent months, scores of Border Patrol agents have been fired upon or pelted with large stones as well as with cloth-covered stones that have been doused with flammable liquid and set ablaze. Since October, agents have been attacked in more than 190 cases, officials said on Thursday.
Most of the attacks have occurred along the Mexican border near San Diego, but shootings have also been reported along the border in Texas near the cities of Laredo and McAllen. In the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, there were 778 attacks on agents, up from 374 in the previous fiscal year, Homeland Security Department officials said.
As for the violence on the border, the officials said Mexico had deployed 300 federal officers along its side of the border to help out. But many of the Mexican gangs remain entrenched.
Last week, immigration officials announced that they had seized a cache of weapons, including materials for 33 explosive devices, assault weapons and machine gun assembly kits, in Laredo. Officials believe the weapons were intended for criminals in Mexico.
"These are very sophisticated, hardened criminals who will use violence to protect their criminal businesses," Mr. Chertoff said. "We've got to be prepared to deal very decisively with any violence directed at our Border Patrol agents."