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Thousands of US troops head for southern border

By AFP - Oct 31,2018 - Last updated at Oct 31,2018

A truck carrying mostly Honduran migrants taking part in a caravan heading to the US drives from Santiago Niltepec to Juchitan, near the town of La Blanca in Oaxaca State, Mexico, on Tuesday (AFP photo)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is deploying 5,200 active-duty troops to beef up security along the US-Mexico border, officials announced Monday, in a bid to prevent a caravan of Central American migrants from illegally crossing the frontier.

The move represents a massive military buildup along the border, where some 2,000 National Guardsmen are already working to provide assistance to overwhelmed authorities.

Trump in recent weeks has repeatedly said more troops are needed to tighten border security, and he has made political capital of the caravan ahead of crucial midterm congressional elections that could see the Democrats regain some degree of power.

According to US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, US authorities are tracking a group of about 3,500 people travelling north through the Chiapas-Oaxaca area in southern Mexico.

Additionally, officials were monitoring another group of about 3,000 people that had gathered at a border crossing between Guatemala and Mexico.

Even as US officials unveiled details of the military deployment, migrants were trying to cross the Suchiate River from Guatemala into Mexico on rafts made from truck tires, or by forming human chains to avoid being swept away.

Others swam across after Mexican authorities refused to open a border bridge.

McAleenan described the situation along the US-Mexico frontier as a “border security and humanitarian crisis”, and said border agents over the past three weeks had apprehended about 1,900 people per day illegally crossing.

“Over half of these arrivals have been made up of family units and unaccompanied children who place themselves in the hands of violent human smugglers, paying $7,000 per person to make the journey,” McAleenan said.

The massive deployment marks a sharp increase from initial estimates last week, when US officials said about 800 active-duty troops would head south.

It means that within days, the US military will have more than three times as many troops along the southern border as it does fighting the Daesh group in Syria.

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