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Agents fire back at drug traffickers in Mexico

U.S. Border Patrol agents and Mexican drug traffickers fought a gun battle across the Rio Grande in south Texas, authorities said Friday March 9, 2012, the latest of a spate of cross-border shootings.

The Border Patrol said gunfire erupted on March 7, 2012  after agents confronted smugglers loading bundles of marijuana into two vehicles on the banks of the Rio Grande west of Roma, Texas, a town about 250 miles south of San Antonio.

The agents opened fire after smugglers fleeing in a vehicle attempted to run them over, the Border Patrol said. Armed traffickers on the Mexican side of the river then shot at the agents, who returned fire into Mexico, the Border Patrol said.

"Our agents had a posed threat," Rosalinda Huey, a spokeswoman with the Border Patrol's Rio Grande sector told Reuters. "They're trained to deal with that situation," she added.

No agents were injured by the gunfire and it is unclear whether any smugglers in Mexico were struck by bullets, she said.

Agents subsequently recovered nearly two tons of marijuana, with a value of more than $3 million. No arrests were made.

The shooting came during one of three raids in the area Wednesday, said NBC Station KZTV.

One investigation in nearby Rio Grande City resulted in the seizure of 2,800 pounds of marijuana worth about $2.2 million when agents followed footprints to the entrance of an underground storage bunker, KZTV said. In another incident Wednesday, agents checking a vehicle driving without headlights ended at a home near Rio Grande City where agents saw several people flee. Three suspects were nabbed and agents found 1,400 pounds, or $1.1 million worth, of marijuana in an underground bunker, KZTV said.

Huey said traffickers opening fire on agents was "just another tactic" as they sought to move drugs across the U.S. border, where additional agents, equipment and infrastructure have contributed to tightening security in recent years.

"Obviously, they've gotten more desperate," she said. "They're going to use more tactics to avoid apprehension or seizure of their narcotics."

The same stretch of the Rio Grande -- Rio Bravo in Mexico -- recorded one other shooting incident involving Border Patrol agents since October 2011, Huey said. No injuries were reported.

Last year agents engaged in gunfire with suspected drug runners near the south Texas town of Abram, according to news reports. In a separate incident, a West Texas road crew in Hudspeth County, east of El Paso, also came under fire from Mexico. And in September 2010, U.S. citizen David Hartley was fatally shot while riding a personal watercraft on Falcon Lake, which straddles the Texas-Mexico border.

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