Two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were targeted Tuesday in a deadly ambush in which one agent was killed and the other seriously wounded.
The agents were about 100 miles outside of Mexico City on a highway near the northern Mexican city of San Luis Potosi and were driving a sport utility vehicle with diplomatic license plates when they were fired upon.
Members of Congress, Obama administration officials and outside experts said the death of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the wounding of his partner would heighten Americans' awareness of the violence fueled by the drug trade in Mexico and stir calls for retaliation.
"This attack was not a case of mistaken identity - the attackers knew who they were going after," Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security told the Houston Chronicle. "This is a game changer. The cartels are willing to take on the United States."
Law enforcement officials said the agents were stopped by suspected members of a drug cartel using other vehicles. Even though the agents identified themselves through a window, assailants then opened fire on them using assault weapons.
President Barack Obama called the parents of the slain agent to convey "heartfelt condolences" and the gratitude of the nation for Zapata's "selfless service and contributions to our nation," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
The other agent was released from the hospital on Wednesday, according to Dallas television station WFAA.
The Mexican government has condemned the attack and has vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
CBN News Military Reporter Chuck Holton said even though Mexico is seeing record rates of violence, it's rare for U.S. citizens or officials to be attacked.
"Most of Mexico is still very safe," he said. "About 84 percent of all drug violence last year happened in just four northern states out of 32 here in Mexico. We are not seeing the narcos targeting Americans specifically. We're not seeing them target missionaries specifically. We're not seeing them target anybody that's not a threat to them."
U.S. and Mexican officials said they're working together to investigate the attack.