WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – A US customs agent and a suspected smuggler were killed in a shootout off the coast of Puerto Rico, officials said Thursday. Other US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were also injured.
Agents from the CBP Air and Marine Operations Unit were on routine patrol when the shooting began about 19 kilometers (12 mi) off the coast of Cabo Rojo.
The location is in the middle of an important corridor for cocaine smuggling from South America, known as the Canal de la Mona, between the west coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
CBP spokesman Jeffrey Quinones said one of the two suspected smugglers died.
Quiñones told reporters in Puerto Rico that the FBI is investigating the shooting, which happened around 8 a.m. He said it was too early to know where the ship came from, the nationalities of its two passengers and whether it was transporting narcotics or providing services to another suspected drug ship.
Drug cartels typically recruit poor fishermen from Colombia and Venezuela to transport large quantities of cocaine to the Dominican Republic, where it is broken down into smaller packages that are shipped out to sea on ships operated by high-paid Puerto Rican drug traffickers. is distributed by. And sometimes well armed.
CBP said in a statement that three officers were injured and taken to the Puerto Rico Trauma Center.
National Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a hearing with senators that one agent from Air and Marine Operations died and “several were seriously injured.”
“These are courageous members of our air and sea operations within United States Customs and Border Protection,” Mayorkas said. “The hardship of this job cannot be compared to the hardships that our frontline staff face every day. Their bravery and selfless service must be recognised.”
The unit has approximately 1,650 agents and is one of the smallest in the Customs Agency, the largest security force in the United States and includes the Border Patrol. Along with planes and ships, it is dedicated to preventing the illegal movement of people, drugs and other goods.
According to the agency, the unit detected 218 conventional aircraft incursions into the United States in fiscal year 2021, seized 500,000 kg (1.1 million pounds) of narcotics, $73.1 million in illicit funds, made more than 122,000 arrests and killed 518 people. Saved