Mexico City: Gunmen who shot up an SUV carrying two US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, killing one, knew they were attacking law enforcement officers, according to US officials.
But details of the attack that emerged on Wednesday indicate the two agents were not targeted ahead of time, rather stopped in the wrong place at the wrong time in a blue Suburban — a vehicle coveted by drug cartels.
Special Agent Jaime Zapata, 32, died and a second agent, Victor Avila, was wounded on Tuesday when they were attacked after being stopped on a four-lane federal highway in northern Mexico.
They were returning to Mexico City from a meeting with other US personnel in the state of San Luis Potosi, according to an ICE statement, which also said the Mexican government does not authorise US law enforcement personnel to carry weapons.
Some reports said the two were stopped at a roadblock, while others said they were run off the road by other vehicles.
Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, who was briefed on the incident as chairman of the Homeland Security Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, the gunmen opened fire after the agents indentified themselves as US diplomats.
An US law enforcement official said that the gunmen made comments before they fired indicating they knew who their targets were. The official was not authorised to discuss the case publicly.
"This was an intentional ambush against two United States federal agents," McCaul said in a statement. "This tragic event is a game changer. The United States will not tolerate acts of violence against its citizens or law enforcement and I believe we must respond forcefully."
US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder announced a joint task force led by the FBI to help Mexico find the killers.
The State Department also expressed confidence in the ability of President Felipe Calderon`s government to pursue the case.