WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 400 people accused of having ties to trafficking for Mexican drug cartels were arrested in 16 U.S. states on Wednesday, U.S. authorities said on Thursday.
As part of the latest sweep, 429 people were arrested and nearly 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) of marijuana, 247 pounds (112 kg) of cocaine, $5.8 million in U.S. currency and 141 weapons were seized, the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration said.
The suspects were charged with various offenses, including conspiracy and distribution of illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines.
The sweep is the latest effort by Mexico and the Obama administration to try to clamp down on drug trafficking along the border where violence has escalated. Pressure has grown on the two governments to tackle the problems.
But tensions between the two countries has also risen in recent days after the fatal shooting of a Mexican teenager by a U.S. border patrol agent, an incident that prompted a formal complaint by Mexico and an FBI investigation.
The boy was shot on the Mexican side of the border in Ciudad Juarez as several youths were running from U.S. border patrol agents. But some U.S. officials said the agents may have feared for their safety and that the group was trying to illegally enter the United States.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder expressed regret for the death of the teenager. But he said the relationship between the two countries was still good.
“There is a bond that exists between Mexico and the United States,” Holder told reporters during a news conference to announce the drug arrests. “We have shared interests and I think that is what we focus on and that is what will keep this relationship strong.”
He said the FBI investigation will look into what happened and who, if anyone, should be held responsible.
With the escalating violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, President Barack Obama plans to seek an additional $500 million for security and to send up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the border.
Over 22 months of a targeted focus on the Mexican cartels, more than 2,220 people have been arrested and $154 million in U.S. currency, 2.5 tons (2,300 kg) of cocaine and 501 weapons have been seized, U.S. authorities said.
Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Eric Beech