- Associated Press - Sunday, August 22, 2010

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico | A gunbattle erupted between Mexican police and gunmen near the Rio Grande on Saturday, killing one person and prompting U.S. authorities to close a highway that runs along the border in El Paso, Texas.

There were no reports of bullets crossing into the U.S. side, El Paso police Detective Mike Baranyay said.

The gunmen attacked a municipal police patrol on a boulevard in Ciudad Juarez, next to the border river, said Ramon Salinas, a spokesman for Mexico’s federal police.

The fighting escalated when federal police rushed to help, he said. One gunman was killed, and three municipal police officers were wounded.

El Paso police closed that city’s border highway for about 30 minutes because of the shooting. City police said the U.S. Border Patrol asked for the shutdown.

Doug Mosier, a spokesman for the Border Patrol, said Paisano Street was closed “in the interest of public safety.” He said that to his knowledge, it was the first time a street in El Paso has been shut down because of a shooting in Mexico.

Traffic was halted on a stretch running from downtown El Paso to the city’s northwest, passing the University of Texas at El Paso, which overlooks the border.

The fighting occurred in the same area where a deadly shootout between gunmen and Mexican police sent seven bullets across the border and into El Paso City Hall on June 29.

Ciudad Juarez has become one of the deadliest cities in the world amid a territorial war between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels. More than 1,860 people have been killed this year in the city of 1.3 million people.

Despite concerns of spillover violence, El Paso remains one of the safest cities in the United States. The city has recorded just three homicides so far this year.

Still, the violence has at times raised tensions between the U.S. and Mexico.

After the bullets hit El Paso City Hall, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote President Obama to warn that the state “is under constant assault from illegal activity threatening a porous border.”

That same month, a 15-year-old Mexican boy was fatally shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was trying to arrest illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande. Some witnesses said a group of people on the Mexican side threw rocks at the agents.

Mr. Obama ordered thousands of National Guard troops to the border.

Elsewhere in Mexico on Saturday, authorities said the bodies of two security guards for Mexican bottling company FEMSA were found dead a day after a shootout in Santa Catalina, a suburb of the northeastern industrial city of Monterrey.

FEMSA said in a statement that four other guards who disappeared after Friday’s shooting were located unharmed.

Police said the two slain guards were found Saturday in the trunk of a car. Three other guards were wounded Friday.

The company said the guards were on standard patrols when gunmen attacked outside a school. Police have not determined a motive, but the region is one of Mexico’s most violent cartel battlegrounds.

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