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Mexico Police Fire on U.S. Embassy Vehicle in Operation Area

Mexican Federal Police fired on a U.S. Embassy vehicle today after it drove through an area where officers were working on anti-crime operations in an incident that left two American employees wounded.

The victims were traveling with a member of the Mexican Navy to visit a naval facility when they were confronted by assailants on a dirt road about four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the highway between Mexico City and Cuernavaca, according to an e-mailed statement from the nation’s Naval Ministry. The embassy personnel were trying to escape their attackers when police vehicles arrived at the scene and fired. The ministry didn’t say whose shots injured the U.S. personnel, who were taken to a local hospital and are expected to survive.

“It’s clear this was an accident,” Alejandro Schtulmann, president and head of research at Mexico City-based consulting firm Emerging Markets Political Risk Analysis, said in a phone interview. “I don’t think the federal police wanted to deliberately shoot a diplomatic vehicle. Part of the problem is lack of training of police in Mexico and the lack of protocol.”

The State Department wouldn’t disclose the names of the wounded employees or the U.S. agencies for which they work.

“We are working with Mexican authorities” to investigate the incident, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said today in earlier e-mailed statement that described the assailants as unknown. She said the wounded Americans “are receiving appropriate medical care and are in stable condition.”

Mexico is embroiled in a war against violent drug cartels, and slayings linked to narcotics have soared since President Felipe Calderon sent troops to fight crime groups when he took office in December 2006. There have been more than 47,000 deaths linked to drug violence in the past five years, according the attorney general’s office.

While Mexico City has been largely spared drug violence, the state of Morelos, where the attack occurred, has been a base of operation for the so-called Beltran Leyva Cartel. Security officials say the cartel has splintered since Mexican marines gunned down its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, in a Cuernavaca condominium in 2009.

The U.S. has been aiding Mexico’s fight against drug traffickers as part of a $1.6 billion assistance package known as the Merida Initiative.

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