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One dead after U.S. agent fires across Mexican border at suspected smugglers

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A U.S. Border Patrol agent shot at suspected drug smugglers who were hurling rocks from Mexico across the border into Arizona, the agency said on Thursday, and Mexican authorities said one of them was killed.

Border Patrol agents responded to reports of two suspected smugglers in Nogales, Arizona, late Wednesday and watched as they dropped drugs on the Arizona side of the border, the agency said in a written statement.

The smugglers then fled back across the border into Mexico and "began assaulting the agents with rocks," the statement said.

One agent fired after the suspects refused orders to stop and one of them apparently was hit, the statement said.

A police commander in Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, said Thursday that a Mexican male was killed in the incident.

The shooting brought sharp criticism from Mexico's Foreign Ministry, which said that the initial report "creates serious, new doubts about the use of lethal force by U.S. Border Patrol agents, something that both the Mexican government and society strongly deplore and condemn.

"It is imperative that the relevant U.S. authorities proceed with a timely and transparent investigation, and take it to its ultimate consequences," the ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment, citing the investigation.

The shooting came more than a week after an agent was shot and killed near the U.S.-Mexico border in an apparent friendly fire incident.

Nicholas Ivie, 30, was responding to a tripped sensor near Naco, Arizona, in an area well-known for smuggling activities. Another agent was shot and wounded, and a third agent was unharmed.

(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix and Lizbeth Diaz and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Bill Trott)

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