TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Gunmen opened fire Thursday on two sport utility vehicles used by the wife of the Honduran president, but she was not in either of them.

The attackers were apparently trying to steal the vehicles and were not targeting first lady Aguas Santa Ocana, said Col. Agenor Navas, head of the elite, 1,000-soldier force assigned to protect the president and his family.

``The first lady was never in danger simply because she wasn't in the two vehicles,'' Navas said at a news conference.

Six soldiers riding in the vehicles returned fire but the suspects sped away and there were no arrests.

A soldier assigned to Santa Ocana's security team was struck in the leg by a bullet during the firefight and was hospitalized in stable condition.

The ambush occurred on a highway between the towns of Mame and Limones on the Caribbean coast, 155 miles northeast of Tegucigalpa, the capital. The region is a hotbed for gangs, Navas said.

Santa Ocana was scheduled to travel to the Caribbean city Trujillo to participate in an official ceremony Tuesday night, but canceled her appearance after bad weather in the area prevented her from flying from Tegucigalpa to Trujillo.

President Ricardo Maduro was traveling in Washington at the time of the attack.