After a series of gun battles just across Arizona's border with Mexico, the U.S. Consulate General in Nogales has issued a travel warning.
A series of shootouts took place this weekend in Agua Prieta, Sonora, across the border from the southeastern Arizona town of Douglas, with various news outlets reporting between eight and 13 people killed.
"All information received indicates that this is probably cartel-related, with massive amounts of munitions used to include automatic weapons, 50-caliber weapons, and hand grenades," the Cochise County Sheriff's Office says in a statement.
Despite this, and the consulate saying, "It is possible that there will be additional firefights in that city," the consulate in Nogales is recommending that U.S. citizens avoid traveling in Agua Prieta only at night.
"The U.S. Consulate General in Nogales has not been able to confirm that a curfew is in effect," the message from the consulate says. "Even in the absence of an official curfew, it is a good practice to avoid non-essential travel after sunset in Agua Prieta."
According to CCSO, the Sheriff's Office got a call from someone at the Douglas Port of Entry shortly before 1 a.m. on Saturday, saying they could hear "what sounded like a gun battle with automatic weapons and possibly hand grenades south of the United States/Mexico border."
"The Port of Entry advised that the sounds lasted [about 15 minutes], and there were no requests for medical personnel or ambulances to respond to the port," according to CCSO.
While the Sheriff's Office doesn't believe this fight is going to come over the border, still taking extra steps. From CCSO:
As a proactive and precautionary measure, the Cochise County Sheriffs Office has placed personnel on a heightened state of alert which will allow for the deployment of additional personnel and the augmentation of existing personnel should it be determined that this violence may potentially spill over into the United States via Cochise County's international boundaries.
Sheriff Dannels said today, "Our information indicates that this is an internal fight within the confines of the country of Mexico and will most likely stay there, however we remain vigilant in our duty to protect our citizens at all costs. If in fact there are criminal factions that intend to bring their issues to the United States, we want to assure them that we are working closely with local, state, and federal agencies to be prepared as necessary and be successful in our mission to stop any violence from occurring in our county."
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In the latest travel advisory on Mexico released by the State Department just a couple of weeks ago, it was recommended that citizens avoid non-essential travel in various places in the state of Sonora, including places near Agua Prieta. Read that warning below:
Sonora: Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Hermosillo, and San Carlos are major cities/travel destinations in Sonora - Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades, and can be extremely dangerous for travelers. Travelers throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours. The region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north, including the towns of Saric, Tubutama and Altar, and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, are known centers of illegal activity and non-essential travel between these cities should be avoided. Travelers should also defer non-essential travel to the eastern edge of the State of Sonora which borders the State of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of the northern city of Agua Prieta and the southern town of Alamos), and defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and south of the city of Navojoa. You should exercise caution while transiting Vicam in southern Sonora due to a roadblock instituted by local indigenous and environmental groups. In December 2013, a gun battle involving Mexican authorities and TCOs occurred in Puerto Penasco. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should remain vigilant, exercise caution and use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, in order to limit driving through Mexico.