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Why Mexican 'pirates' are targeting US tourists on Falcon Lake

New drug trafficking routes into the United States may now intersect more with tourist areas such as Falcon Lake.

Escorted by Texas Parks and Wildlife, Tiffany Hartley, center, and family members, lay a wreath near the site where her husband, David, who was shot last week, Wednesday, Oct. 6, on Falcon Lake in Zapata, Texas. Hartman was shot by Mexican pirates on Falcon Lake last week as they were returning to the United States on Jet Skis.

Eric Gay/AP Photo

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The attack that allegedly killed the missing American tourist David Hartley on Sept. 30 while he was jet-skiing with his wife was not the first such incident on the 60-mile-long body of water straddling the United States and Mexico.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, gunmen armed with AK-47s and AR-15 rifles have attacked US tourists on Lake Falcon in a string of robberies in recent months. Using Argos-type fishing boats, some attackers are dressed as Mexican police, while others have used crude duct-taped signs to disguise their boats as Texas Parks and Wildlife vessels, according to victims' reports.

Since April 30, five incidents of armed robberies or attempted theft have been reported on Falcon Lake: one in April, two in May, and one in August. The fifth ambush allegedly ended in gunfire last week with the possible death of Mr. Hartley.

“This is a new situation where [drug-trafficking] groups feel they own public spaces,” says Humberto Palomares, a security expert at the Tamaulipas campus of the Colegio de Frontera Norte (COLEF).

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