TUCSON, Ariz. — National Guard troops at an observation post near the Mexico border were forced to flee a group of armed people, who later ran into Mexico, authorities said.
The troops, who are not allowed to apprehend illegal border crossers, withdrew safely and no one was injured, said National Guard Sgt. Edward Balaban.
U.S. Border Patrol officials are investigating the 11 p.m. Wednesday incident and trying to determine who the armed people were and why they approached the post near Sasabe, in the desert corridor between Nogales and Lukeville. Balaban said the troops didn’t know how many people were involved because it was so dark.
That area has been the busiest in the Tucson Sector for marijuana seizures. Agents have seized 124,000 pounds of marijuana there since Oct. 1, said Rob Daniels, spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.
“We don’t know if this was a matter of somebody coming up accidentally on the individuals, coming up intentionally on the individuals, or some sort of a diversion,” Daniels said.
With more Border Patrol agents and National Guard troops patrolling the Arizona section of the U.S.-Mexico border, it has become more difficult to smuggle drugs and people across and “that heightened frustration may have been connected to what took place last night,” Daniels said.
Balaban said officials would investigate and then determine whether to change any procedures for troops at the border.
Since arriving in mid-June, the Guard has assisted the Border Patrol by manning control rooms, repairing roads, fences and vehicles, and spotting and reporting illegal border crossings to the Border Patrol. President Bush said last spring he would have up to 6,000 National Guard troops deployed to assist the Border Patrol.