Assaults on U.S. Border Patrol agents nearly doubled along the Mexican border over the last year, says the Los Angeles Times. Patrols cracking down on drug trafficking and migrant smuggling encountered increasing resistance, including rocks, Molotov cocktails, and gunfire. At least 687 assaults against agents were reported during the year that ended Sept. 30, up from the previous year’s 354 and the highest since the agency began tracking assaults across the border in the late 1990s.
Most assaults occurred near urban smuggling havens such as Nogales, Az., and Tijuana, but skirmishes took place from remote California deserts to the banks of the Rio Grande in Texas. In many attacks, smugglers hurled softball-size rocks or fired high-powered slingshot devices loaded with marbles and ball bearings. Some tried to run over agents with vehicles. In Tucson and San Diego, agents reported being shot at 43 times – up from 18 the previous year. No agents were killed, but three were shot in the leg. At least 20 more were hospitalized, many with head injuries from rocks. Agents fatally shot five suspected smugglers in the Tucson and San Diego sectors. One agent struggled with and killed a man armed with a semiautomatic weapon who was suspected of waiting to pick up migrants. Officials attribute the increased assaults to rising frustration among drug and immigrant traffickers, who have seen traditional smuggling routes blocked by the border buildup. About 11,000 agents – more than ever – patrol the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. Stadium lighting, sensors, remote cameras and triple fences protect some frontiers.