Armed Standoff Along U.S. Border

Sara A. Carter and Kenneth Todd Ruiz, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Cal.), Jan. 24, 2006

Mexican soldiers and civilian smugglers had an armed standoff with nearly 30 U.S. law enforcement officials on the Rio Grande in Texas Monday afternoon, according to Texas police and the FBI.

Mexican military Humvees were towing what appeared to be thousands of pounds of marijuana across the border into the United States, said Chief Deputy Mike Doyal, of the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Department.

Mexican Army troops had several mounted machine guns on the ground more than 200 yards inside the U.S. border—near Neely’s Crossing, about 50 miles east of El Paso—when Border Patrol agents called for backup. Hudspeth County deputies and Texas Highway patrol officers arrived shortly afterward, Doyal said.

“It’s been so bred into everyone not to start an international incident with Mexico that it’s been going on for years,” Doyal said. “When you’re up against mounted machine guns, what can you do? Who wants to pull the trigger first? Certainly not us.”

An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the incident happened at 2:15 p.m. Pacific Time.

“Bad guys in three vehicles ended up on the border,” said Andrea Simmons, a spokeswoman with the FBI’s El Paso office. “People with Humvees, who appeared to be with the Mexican Army, were involved with the three vehicles in getting them back across.”

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Doyal said such incidents are common at Neely’s Crossing, which is near Fort Hancock, Texas, and across from the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

“It happens quite often here,” he said.

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On Wednesday, Chertoff played down the reports of border incursions by the Mexican military. He suggested many of the incursions could have been mistakes, blaming bad navigation by military personnel or attributing the incursions to criminals dressed in military garb.

Mexican officials last week denied any incursions made by their military.

But border agents interviewed over the past year have discussed confrontations those they believe to be Mexican military personnel.

“We’re sitting ducks,” said a border agent speaking on condition of anonymity. “The government has our hands tied.”

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