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Falcon Lake 'pirate' attack: Sign of spillover from Mexico drug war?

The alleged shooting of a US boater by Mexican pirates on Falcon Lake, which straddles the Texas-Mexico border, is raising fears about spillover drug violence from Mexico into the US.

By Staff writer / October 5, 2010

As the survivor of what's being called a pirate assault on Falcon Lake, Texas, recounts the harrowing ordeal that likely took her husband's life, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is leading calls for a tough US response to spillover violence from Mexico's bloody drug wars onto American soil.

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The Falcon Lake attack, where three boats likely connected to the Zeta drug-running gang reportedly shot at 30-year-old David Hartley and his wife, Tiffany Hartley, while they rode personal watercraft, now threatens to become an international incident. On Tuesday the mother of Mr. Hartley begged US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to intervene in efforts to try to locate his still-missing body.

The pleas from the border came as authorities in Texas reported other evidence of Mexican drug violence in the US, including a bullet-riddled truck found on the US side of the border last week with the bodies of two Mexican nationals inside – an act of violence that Brownsville Police Chief Carlos Garcia described as a cartel-ordered "hit."

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

"The larger significance of [the pirate attack] is whether it's an indicator of what we greatly fear, which is that violence would spill over [the US border] in a direct way," says Robert Chesney, a national security law expert at the University of Texas, in Austin.

President Obama sent 1,200 National Guard troops to the border earlier this year, and locals on Falcon Lake report a step-up in patrols of the US side of the 60-mile-long basin, which is part of the Rio Grande watershed and managed by a binational commission.

In the wake of the alleged attack on Falcon Lake, the US government has renewed warnings to boaters not to cross the midlake border, which is marked by concrete columns, to minimize risks of running into pirates.

Authorities report five incidents this year in which bass fishermen were either robbed at gunpoint or approached by pirates before escaping, including the most recent report where a boat marked with a misspelled "Game Wardin" tried to get close to fishermen, who grew suspicious and fled.