Feb. 26, 2014 5:17 PM

Written by
Brett Kelman
The Desert Sun

This map shows the border town of Calexico. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, these shootings occurred in the mountainous region west of the city, south of the border. / Google Earth

An escalating series of ambushes and gunfights have killed as many as three bandits and critically wounded one undocumented immigrant in a mountainous region just south of the U.S-Mexico border.

The shootings, which occurred over a two-day span last week, have prompted an investigation from an international, multi-agency law enforcement team that has recovered guns, ammunition and bodies, but arrested none of the bandits, according to a news release from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“These unfortunate events highlight the inherent dangers of crossing the border illegally,” said Carla L. Provost, chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol El Centro Sector, in the release. “Border violence is of great concern to the governments of Mexico and the United States and we will continue to cooperate and collaborate with our partners in an effort to establish a safe and secure border.”

According to the release, the first ambush occurred on Feb. 16, when a group of five immigrants were robbed by two masked men, armed with rifles, as they sneaked through the mountains west of Calexico, a border town in California. As the immigrants were held by the masked men, a separate team of gunmen confronted the immigrants and the masked men, attempting to rob the entire group, sparking a gunfight.

As the robbers fought amongst themselves, the immigrants fled north into the U.S., where they were arrested by the Border Patrol. Mexican authorities were notified of the gunfight, recovering several expended shotgun rounds from the scene. Although the group of immigrants said one gunman was killed in the firefight, Mexican authorities found no bodies at the scene, the news release states.

The second ambush occurred a day later, when a group of eight immigrants were robbed by gunmen with rifles in the same area. The immigrants said they were held hostage for several hours but eventually overpowered their captures, leaving two gunmen dead. One of the immigrants was shot in the face during the struggle, so the immigrants rushed north, calling 911 after they had crossed the border.

The shooting victim was flown to a trauma center in Palm Springs. The rest of the immigrants were arrested.

The Border Patrol has teamed with the Department of Homeland Security Investigations and Mexican authorities to investigate both reports. The investigation resulted in the seizure of one ski mask, one AK-47 and one Ruger .223 rifle, two large-capacity magazines and two deceased Mexicans, according to a news release.

The Border Patrol could not be reached for additional comment.