- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Homeland Security Department’s attache to Mexico says the violence in Mexico is not as dangerous to tourists as has been portrayed.

Speaking to a House subcommittee on Thursday, Alonzo Pena said the violence is in isolated areas of the country and only affects the people involved in criminal activity. He said the violence is not affecting U.S. citizens visiting Mexico.

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives warned college students on spring breaks not to travel to parts of northern Mexico because it was too dangerous.

In February, the State Department advised travelers to avoid areas of prostitution and drug-dealing in Mexico.

More than 7,000 people have been killed in the Mexican drug wars since Jan. 1, 2008.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A top Homeland Security official told a House panel Thursday that Mexican drug cartels are the biggest organized crime threat to the United States.

Since 2008, about 7,000 people have been killed in the Mexican drug wars, and violence is spilling into some U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Phoenix and Birmingham, Ala.

Homeland Security official Roger Rufe said a department plan to respond to escalating violence on the southwest border includes deploying military personnel and equipment to the region if homeland security agencies become overwhelmed.

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