Border Patrol agents found two dead bodies in rugged terrain south of Tubac on Monday after four illegal immigrants — two with gunshot wounds — approached a residence and asked a woman for help, an official said.

The men said they were shot by a group of robbers trying to steal a load of marijuana from them, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said.

Just before 10 a.m., deputies received a 911 call from a woman near Aliso Springs about 20 miles from the border, after four men came to her door asking for help, Estrada said. One of the men had been shot in the back and one in the forearm, he said.

Deputies learned that two more men might still be in the desert near Aliso Springs, an area often used by drug and people smugglers, and found one body about 2:30 p.m., the other just before 5 p.m., Estrada said.

The four men, from Imuris, Sonora, admitted they were backpacking marijuana from Mexico into the United States when they were confronted by three robbers in camouflage clothing and armed with assault rifles, Estrada said.

The men dropped the marijuana and fled, with the assailants firing at them, he said.

One of the men found by Border Patrol agents died from a gunshot wound. The other suffered head trauma when he fell down a ravine; the cause of his death is still under investigation.

The shooting victims were taken to a Tucson hospital, and authorities notified the Mexican Consulate.

The other two men will be detained by the Border Patrol as witnesses or possibly suspects in connection with the shooting.

● Contact reporter Dale Quinn at 629-9412 or