PRAXEDIS G. GUERRERO (Mexico) - A 20-YEAR-OLD female college student is the new police chief of one of Mexico's most dangerous drug war towns on the UDborder, where policemen have quit and officials have been killed.

Marisol Valles, who studies criminology in Mexico's violent city of Ciudad Juarez, took charge of the police force in the neighboring municipality of Praxedis G. Guerrero near El Paso, Texas, just days before hitmen shot and killed a local official.

The mother of an infant son heads a force of just 13 agents, nine of whom are women, and can count on just one working patrol car, three automatic rifles and a pistol to take on powerful drug cartels waging war over smuggling routes into Texas.

Ms Valles, who is petite, with long brown hair, painted pink nails and black glasses, said she was not cowed by the violence and had not received threats since taking office last week. The town's new mayor said Ms Valles was the best candidate among several who applied for the job.

'The situation can improve if we believe in ourselves and believe there is hope. I want to carry this through and show that we can do this,' she told Reuters on Wednesday in Praxedis in Chihuahua, Mexico's most violent state.

'We are doing this for a new generation of people who dont't want to be afraid anymore,' she added.

Female student now police chief