The Associated Press
SIERRA BLANCA, Texas- Men dressed as Mexican Army soldiers, apparent drug suspects and Texas law enforcement officers faced off on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, an FBI spokeswoman said Tuesday.Andrea Simmons, an agency spokeswoman in El Paso, told The Associated Press that Texas Department of Public Safety troopers chased three SUVs, believing they were carrying drugs, to the banks of the Rio Grande during Monday's incident.
Men dressed in Mexican military uniforms or camouflage were on the U.S. side of the border in Texas, she said.
Simmons said the FBI was not involved and referred requests for further details to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin of Ontario, Calif., reported Tuesday that the incident included an armed standoff involving the Mexican military, suspected drug smugglers and nearly 30 U.S. law enforcement officers. It said Mexican military Humvees were towing what appeared to be thousands of pounds of marijuana across the border into the United States.
The incident follows a story in the Bulletin on Jan. 15 that said the Mexican military had crossed into the United States more than 200 times since 1996.
Chief Deputy Mike Doyal of the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Department told the newspaper that Border Patrol agents called for backup and were joined by Hudspeth County deputies and DPS troopers. Mexican army personnel had several mounted machine guns on the ground more than 200 yards inside the U.S. border, the newspaper said.
Doyal said deputies captured a Cadillac Escalade that had been reported stolen from El Paso, and found 1,477 pounds of marijuana inside. He said Mexican soldiers set fire to one of the Humvees stuck in the river.
The site is near Neely's Crossing, about 50 miles east of El Paso, it 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."
After the newspaper reported on Mexican military crossings, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the report was overblown and most of the incursions were just mistakes.
In eastern California, Arizona and New Mexico, the U.S.-Mexico border is largely unmarked. But in Texas, the Rio Grande separates the two countries and even when dry, is a riverbed about 200 feet wide.
In November, Doyal said Border Patrol agents in the border town of Fort Hancock called for help after confronting more than six men dressed in Mexican military uniforms. The men allegedly were trying to bring more than three tons of marijuana across the Rio Grande, Doyal told the newspaper.
Doyal said such incidents are common at Neely's Crossing.