Agents find weapons, rocket launcher near Rio Grande

MCALLEN, Texas Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:07am IST

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MCALLEN, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. Border Patrol agents found a rocket launcher, assault rifles and explosives near the Rio Grande river in Texas, the agency said on Wednesday, a discovery that suggests a link to Mexico's drug wars.

Agents found the weapons on Tuesday in a black bag along a quiet stretch of the Rio Grande near Fronton, a small community about 210 miles/337 km south of San Antonio. No arrests have been made.

The weapons are similar to those reported used in the borderland drug wars and smuggled south from the United States into Mexico. They were found in an area of the river that is easily crossed and close to a Mexican cartel battleground.

Authorities stopped short of making any direct link between the guns and the drug cartels, saying only that they signaled a threat to public safety in both Texas and Mexico.

"These deadly weapons could have had a devastating impact on communities on both sides of the border and to our agents and other law enforcement officers," Rosendo Hinojosa, head of Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector, said in a statement.

Officials theorized that the guns were waiting to be smuggled across the border into Mexico.

Inside the bag were six assault rifles, a grenade launcher, a rocket launcher, 20 ammunition magazines for various-sized weapons and three packages of what appeared to be C-4 plastic explosives, a Border Patrol news release said.

Mexican drug gangs frequently rely on grenades and assault rifles in an escalating battle between rival drug smugglers and against law enforcement.

More than 42,000 people have died in Mexican drug wars since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared war on drug traffickers.

Violence has been common in the Texas border area. Border Patrol agents found the weapons about 120 miles/193 km west of the hometown of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata, a Brownsville native fatally shot by suspected members of the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico in February.

The seizure also was about 10 miles/16 km southeast from where U.S. citizen David Hartley was fatally shot while riding a personal watercraft on Falcon Lake that straddles the Texas-Mexico border in September 2010.

The Zetas have battled their former Gulf Cartel allies for control of lucrative drug smuggling routes across from deep South Texas since early 2010, when the two gangs split.

(Edited by Karen Brooks, Cynthia Johnston and Bill Trott) Keywords: USA MEXICO/WEAPONS

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Thursday, 15 September 2011 04:47:37

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