Columbus Officials Due In Court Friday

Columbus, NM – Authorities say the mayor and police chief of a tiny New Mexico border town accused of conspiring to illegally send firearms to Mexico are due in federal court.

Federal prosecutors say the Columbus officials and eight others are set for initial appearances on Friday in Las Cruces. An indictment says the defendants bought and tried to export firearms favored by Mexican drug cartels beginning in January 2010.

Law enforcement officers arrested the suspects Thursday morning as they carried out search warrants at the Columbus Police Department, a gun shop and eight homes.

Border state gun shops are a chief source of weapons smuggling into Mexico, and Mexican officials fighting that country's increasingly violent cartels have complained to U.S. officials about the flow of firearms.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.