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Unfortunately, violent outbreaks south of the Mexico border are all too common amid battles between drug cartels and other societal breakdowns. Recently, however, these deadly attacks have begun appearing in new regions of the nation – and in frighteningly close proximity to the United States.

Intelligence Analyst Dr. Lyle Rapacki spoke with the Western Center for Journalism recently in an effort to examine an attack last weekend that left several individuals dead and even more injured.

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According to information confirmed by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, automatic rifles, grenades, and .50-caliber weapons were used by battling factions early Saturday morning in the Mexican border town of Agua Prieta, just south of Douglas, Ariz.

Reports indicate between eight and 13 individuals were killed during the gunfight, which lasted from about 12:45 a.m. to just after 1 a.m. Saturday.

Rapacki explained that, upon first hearing of the violence, he immediately contacted sources within law enforcement and the intelligence community to alert them to the troubling development. He said a primary concern was the threat of spillover violence entering the U.S., though the outbreak remained limited to Mexico. Still, he noted, violence in Mexico continues to creep northward in a manner he compared to the classic horror film monster, the Blob.

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“Even places like Acapulco and Mazatlan, places like that have started to have some violence,” he explained. “As the violence continues to move further north, it has been concerning.”

Though the individuals involved in the weekend firefight were in Mexico, he cautioned that “a bullet doesn’t know boundaries.”

Reports indicate the violence “wasn’t static,” Rapacki noted. “It was a roving gun battle.”

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the incident was the unwillingness of local authorities to become involved.

“During the firefight, neither medical or law enforcement went into the area,” he said. “What that tells us is there were a lot more than a few people shooting guns.”

First responders essentially created a “free-fire zone,” he said, which “tells us by supposition that there was a lot more firefighting going on than meets the eye.”

He speculated that law enforcement might have been outnumbered and that the violence was too intense for even professionals to penetrate.

While the border crossing near Douglas is notoriously porous, Rapacki said it is fairly uncommon to see such violence so close to the Arizona border. The primary solution to the threats caused by such violent uprisings, he explained, is something millions of Americans support but which too many of our leaders deem unimportant.

“We need to secure our border,” he said. “We need to realize this is not a police action; it’s an invasion.”

Though there is still no concrete information regarding the root cause of the violence, preliminary reports suggest two warring cartels were responsible. In any case, though, Rapacki pointed out the rarity of such an attack.

“One of the theories is that Arizona is more of a gateway,” he said. “It’s quiet; they don’t want to draw attention to the Arizona border.”

While he confirmed that the “northern tier of Mexico has been turned over to the cartel,” Rapacki suggested the violence could also suggest a “limited civil war breaking out in northern Mexico,” fueled by those “tired of random killings, kidnappings, rapes” without a proper response from authorities.

“A lot of people are fighting for their lives [and their] communities,” he said.

Rapecki, who has dedicated much of his life to analyzing security risks and intelligence with law enforcement and other agencies, said this incident is particularly troubling given its proximity to the Arizona border. To make matters worse, he said, too many American leaders seem content to ignore the problem and hope it will simply go away.

As of Monday afternoon, a CCSO spokesperson had not responded to a request for further information.

–B. Christopher Agee

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