A US federal agent was fatally shot Tuesday and another wounded in an attack on their vehicle that could raise pressure on Mexico to better protect US officials.
Jaime Zapata, who was working at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Attache office in Mexico City, died of his wounds. The injured agent, who was not identified, was shot in the arm and leg and remains in stable condition.
The special agents had been driving between the violent northern city of Monterrey and Mexico City through the state of San Luis Potos__ when gunmen opened fire. Local media photos show a sports utility vehicle with tinted windows apparently run off the highway and peppered with bullets through the passenger window.
News reports that the men were caught in a false roadblock customarily set up by drug traffickers were not confirmed, and Mexican military told The Associated press that they have no checkpoints in the area.
The agents were shot in the line of duty. In response to an inquiry about the agents_ duties in Mexico, ICE said it coordinates investigations into _transnational criminal organizations_ and serves as liaison with foreign law enforcement. ICE agents in Mexico also participate extensively in training of Mexican police, the US Embassy of Mexico City says.
On Tuesday, Mexico_s Foreign Ministry immediately condemned the attack and pledged to bring the assailants to justice. The same day, the Attorney General_s Office sent organized crime investigators to the relatively calm state of San Luis Potos__ where the shooting took place, Mexican newspapers reported.
A tough US response?
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the United States is working closely with officials on the Mexican-led investigation to ensure the perpetrators are captured as quickly as possible.
_Let me be clear: Any act of violence against our ICE personnel ... is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety,_ Ms. Napolitano said.
The strongly worded statement, along with a history of swift justice against the few traffickers who have killed or threatened US agents, portend a major crackdown against drug groups found responsible.
_You start killing US officials and that really turns up the heat,_ says George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. _There_s going to be great pressure on the Mexican government to find out who was behind this killing, enormous pressure._