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Deadly street shootout strikes fear in Acapulco

A chaotic shootout Wednesday on a hotel-lined boulevard in the beach resort city of Acapulco left as many as six people dead, Mexican authorities said.

Federal police officers patrolling the area came under fire after they heard gunshots and saw attackers shooting at two men in a car, authorities said. The gunmen also shot at other vehicles as they tried to flee, riddling dozens of cars with bullet holes.

The victims included a woman and her 8-year-old daughter. No tourists appeared to have been killed. A federal officer was also slain during the shootout with gunmen, which erupted on busy Miguel Aleman Boulevard, the main tourist drag.

Five people were wounded, according to public safety authorities in Guerrero state.

The midafternoon gun battle could be heard in nearby hotels. Hundreds of spent casings from AK-47 assault rifles -- the type favored by drug-gang hit men -- littered the street. Cars reportedly crashed into one another as innocent drivers tried to escape the shooting.

Guests and workers at the beach-side Hotel Playa Suites, next to where the shooting took place, were rattled by the confusing scene as police poured into the area.

“Police arrived and they kept our guests and workers from leaving, and this unfortunately caused panic among our guests,” said Laura Toledo, a reservations manager. “Our customers weren’t aware of the shootout, and they became alarmed when so many federal police arrived.”

She said most of the guests are foreigners.

In June, 18 people were killed in a fierce battle between suspected drug cartel gunmen and government forces in a separate section of Acapulco’s hotel zone, favored by Mexican visitors. None of the dead were tourists.

Wednesday’s shootout, in one of the country’s best-known resort towns during the spring vacation season, is unwelcome news for Mexican officials. Mexico has repeatedly sought to reassure tourists that they face little risk of being caught up in the country’s escalating drug violence because most of it takes place far from resort areas.

More than 22,000 people have died since the government of President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown against drug traffickers in December 2006. Most of the killings stem from feuds between rival trafficking groups along the U.S. border and in key trafficking zones.

Acapulco, which has sought to regain its former glory as a stylish tourist haven, has seen scores of drug-related gang killings during the last three years, though few were in areas frequented by tourists.

The resort is in the Pacific state of Guerrero, an important smuggling corridor and, like many other tourist spots, also coveted by traffickers as a market for street sales.

Turf battles among rival gangs have left more than 300 people dead in and around Acapulco since the Calderon administration’s crackdown began, according to confidential government figures cited Wednesday.

ken.ellingwood

@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times’ Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.


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