Three U.S. federal agents were wounded in a gun battle with suspected drug smugglers on Thursday while inspecting a vessel believed to be carrying drugs off the coast of Puerto Rico, a Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) spokesperson said.
CBP agents at around 8:45 a.m. (1245 GMT) stopped the vessel, which was believed to be carrying controlled substances, 14 miles (22.5 km) off the coast of the Puerto Rican municipality of Cabo Rojo.
“Three of our Customs and Border Protection agents had an exchange of gunfire with a vessel that was approaching,” CBP spokesperson Jeffrey Quinones said in a telephone interview.
“The agents suffered bullet wounds and have already been transported to the Puerto Rico Trauma Center.”
Two people were wounded on board the vessel in question and two people suspected of drug trafficking were arrested, Quinones said, adding he could not confirm local media reports that there had been fatalities resulting from the incident.
Drug traffickers frequently use Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, as an entrance point for narcotics being smuggled from the Caribbean to the continental United States.
Puerto Rican police on Wednesday reported finding 38 kg (84 pounds) of what was believed to be cocaine as well as the body of a man underneath a 19-foot (6-meter) boat that was left abandoned on a beach in the western municipality of Isabela.