MEXICO CITY — Gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents Tuesday afternoon as they drove north of Mexico City, killing one and seriously wounding the other.
It was the latest attack on U.S. officials following the killing last March of a U.S. employee of the American consulate and two others in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's deadliest.
Janet Napolitano, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a statement calling Tuesday's shooting an "unconscionable crime."
"Let me be clear: any act of violence against our ICE personnel — or any DHS personnel — is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety," Napolitano said. "The full resources of our department are at the disposal of our Mexican partners in this investigation. We remain committed in our broader support for Mexico's efforts to combat violence within its borders."
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ICE is the largest investigative arm of DHS. Its office in Mexico deals with a variety of criminal matters, including immigration violations, human trafficking, money laundering, trade fraud, drug trafficking and sex tourism.
Mexican officials also strongly condemned "the grave act of violence" and said investigators were working closely with U.S. counterparts to catch the gunmen.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Alexander A. Featherstone said he couldn't pinpoint the location of the shooting or provide the circumstances. The surviving agent was shot in the arm and the leg and is receiving treatment, Napolitano said in her statement.
A Mexican television network said the shooting occurred near San Luis Potosi, which has seen an uptick in drug-related violence in recent months.
Featherstone said the gunmen might still be in the area, somewhere along the 600-mile route between Mexico City and Monterrey, an industrial hub in the north.
In large parts of northern Mexico, drug gangs set up roadblocks to rob travelers, kidnap victims for ransom or steal vehicles.
According to a database offered by the Mexican government, last year was the bloodiest year since President Felipe Calderon launched a head-on confrontation with drug cartels in late 2006, accounting for nearly half the country's more than 34,000 deaths since the crackdown began.
Last year's death toll included some 60 U.S. citizens. Last month, gunmen in a pickup truck shot a 59-year-old American missionary, Nancy Davis, in the back of the head in Tamaulipas state. Authorities said later the gunmen might have wanted to steal the car Davis and her husband were using.
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