Thousands of migrants who were travelling in a caravan toward a border crossing on the Mexico-Guatemala frontier have clashed with police and border guards.
Hundreds of Honduran migrants broke through a Guatemalan border barrier and forced their way onto Mexican territory Friday, as riot police tried to keep them from advancing past a border bridge and continuing their trek toward the US.
Multiple migrants, federal police and journalists were wounded as the crowd hurled rocks and other objects at the security cordon on the Mexican side, an AFP correspondent said.
Chanting "Yes we can!" and "Mexico! Mexico!" hundreds of migrants climbed or violently tore down a series of barriers leading to the final fence and police line on Mexico's southern border.
"We ask you to please name a committee to hold a dialogue with officials from the National Migration Institute. Don't continue putting women's and children's lives at risk," a Mexican official pleaded with them through a bullhorn.
The migrants could be seen passing babies overhead through the crowd, as women holding crying children by the hand or pressing their infants to their chests streamed past the broken metal barriers and onto the bridge.
"Open please!" one woman said through tears at the final barrier, carrying a baby in her arms.
"The children are suffocating," said a young man.
"We're going to get in! We're going to get in together!" shouted another young man as the migrant caravan -- whose journey has triggered escalating anti-immigrant rhetoric from President Donald Trump ahead of congressional elections - massed on the bridge.
Defying Trump's threats
Various caravans of migrants have been traveling by bus or on foot from Honduras, mostly through Guatemala, in the hope of not just reaching Mexico but heading on to the United States.
"The journey has been very tough, very difficult but there's no work in Honduras," 20-year-old Glenda Salvador, a mother of two toddlers, told AFP earlier in the day as the migrants massed in the Guatemalan town of Tecun Uman, close to the bridge.
On Thursday, Trump branded the migrant caravan an "onslaught" and an "assault on our country" in a series of typically fiery tweets.
He also threatened to send in the US military to "CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!" and keep out "MANY CRIMINALS" among the migrants.
He called on Mexico to ensure the migrants do not reach the US border while threatening Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador with financial penalties.
In Mexico City, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after meeting his Mexican counterpart that migration across the two countries' border is reaching "a moment of crisis."
"The challenge related to security for our southern border is... a challenge for American sovereignty," he said.
Authorities in Ciudad Hidalgo, on the Mexican side, were expecting around 3,000 migrants to arrive in total.
They had been preparing for an influx of migrants, with local police chief Gerardo Hernandez saying that five shelters had been set up to accommodate up to 4,000 people.
UN asylum help
On Thursday, Mexico's ambassador to Guatemala, Luis Manuel Lopez Moreno, met with migrants camped out on the border to try to discourage them from crossing illegally.
A federal police helicopter circled overhead while observers from the national Human Rights Commission were sent to various points along the 900-kilometer (550 miles) border.
"We are offering documented entry to those who have a passport and visa, and to those who do not, documented entry via an application for refugee status, on humanitarian grounds. We will address every case," he said.
Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray meanwhile told reporters he had met with United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, who said the UNHCR would help the Mexican government to process asylum applications for those in the caravan.
The Honduran migrant caravan is seen as a consequence of poverty and insecurity in the Central American country, wracked by gang and drug-related violence.
With a homicide rate of 43 per 100,000 citizens, Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world.