Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jun 2012
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2012 New York Times
Author: Charlie Savage, The New York Times


WASHINGTON - A U.S. agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration 
shot a man to death in Honduras during a raid on a drug smuggling 
operation early Saturday, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in 
Honduras said on Sunday. The man who was killed had been reaching for 
his weapon, the official said, and the U.S. agent fired in self-defense.

The shooting brought further attention to the growing U.S. 
involvement in counternarcotics operations in Central America. 
Commando style squads of DEA agents have been working with local 
security forces in several countries and have been present at several 
firefights in Honduras in which people died in the past 15 months.

The latest episode, however, is the first in which the U.S. 
government has said that a U.S. agent, rather than a Honduran police 
officer, had killed a suspect. The shooting underscored the sensitive 
issues of national sovereignty raised by the growing U.S. 
participation in the operations.

The U.S. government tracked a plane suspected of smuggling drugs from 
South America as it landed at an airstrip early Saturday near the 
village of Brus Laguna, in Honduras near its northern coast, said 
Stephen Posivak, the spokesman for the embassy in Tegucigalpa, 
Honduras, in a phone interview.

A surveillance aircraft observed about 40 people unloading cargo and 
taking it to a nearby staging site in the woods. Four State 
Department helicopters, carrying both Honduran police officers and 
members of the DEA's Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team - a 
commando-style squad commonly referred to as FAST - went to the site 
and intercepted the shipment. They arrested four people and recovered 
several weapons and about 360 kilograms of cocaine.

During the operation, Posivak said, the government agents told a 
group suspected of smuggling to surrender. Four of the suspects did 
so and were arrested, but a fifth reached for a holstered weapon. The 
U.S. agent shot him before he could fire.

Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the DEA, said that the DEA agent was 
allowed to fire under the rules of engagement for such operations 
that were established by an agreement between the U.S. and Honduran 

Last month, a similar raid near Ahuas ended in a gunfight on a river 
in which four people were killed, leading to a dispute over whether 
they were involved in drug smuggling or were bystanders.
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