The Mexican Navy said Friday that federal police opened fire on a U.S. Embassy vehicle carrying two U.S. government employees, after the vehicle entered an area where the Mexican officers were conducting anti-crime operations.
The two U.S. Embassy employees were hospitalized, one with a wound to the leg and the other hit in the stomach and hand, according to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The U.S. Embassy said it could not release details of the shooting or the names of the victims.
The Navy said at least four vehicles opened fire on the Americans' sport utility vehicle on a road south of Mexico City, but did not make clear if any of the four carried federal police officers.
The shootings appeared to have been the result of a confused running gunbattle that broke out on a rural road in a mountainous area that has been used by common criminals, drug gangs and leftist rebels in the past.
The Navy said the embassy personnel were heading down a dirt road to a military installation when a carload of gunmen opened fire on them and chased them, along with a Navy officer accompanying them.
The Americans' vehicle tried to escape, but three other cars joined the original vehicle in pursuing them down the road. Occupants of all four vehicles opened fire, and the Navy captain called more help. Federal police officers and Mexican army troops then showed up on the road. The statement does not make clear whose bullets injured the U.S. workers
Vehicle had diplomatic plates
The U.S. vehicle appeared to have been armored and had diplomatic plates
The government official said the wounded were not agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration or FBI, but did not identify which agency they work for.
"We are working with Mexican authorities to investigate an incident this morning in which two employees of our Embassy in Mexico City came under attack by unknown assailants. They are receiving appropriate medical care and are in stable condition. We have no further information to share at this time," said Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman in Washington.
The Mexican naval captain in the vehicle was not injured.
The vehicle was riddled with bullets, most concentrated around the passenger-side window, indicating possible involvement by experienced gunmen.
The scene of the shooting was cordoned off and guarded Friday by more than 100 heavily armed marines and soldiers, and the highway was closed. Investigators examined what appeared to be shell casings left at the scene.
Third attack in two years
Attacks on diplomatic personnel in Mexico were once considered rare, but this is the third attack in two years.
In 2011, one U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was killed and one wounded in a drug gang shooting in northern Mexico.
A drug-gang shooting In 2010 in the border city of Ciudad Juarez killed a U.S. consulate employee, her husband and another man.
While Mexico City has largely been spared the drug violence that hit other parts of the country, Cuernavaca has been the scene of drug gang turf battles involving remnants of the Beltran Leyva cartel.