Shootout leaves 14 dead in Mexico tourist spot

A shootout between Mexican soldiers and gunmen Tuesday left at least 14 people dead in the scenic mining town of Taxco, known to tourists for its silver jewelry.

Authorities in the southern state of Guerrero said all those killed during the morning shootout appeared to be gunmen. State officials had not provided more details by late afternoon.

Mexican news reports said the shooting broke out when troops went to search a suspected criminal hide-out in Taxco, a picturesque town of stone-paved streets and silver shops that draws thousands of visitors each year.

Tuesday’s incident comes amid a particularly violent period in Mexico, where bloodshed linked to drug-trafficking groups has claimed more than 100 lives in recent days.

A day earlier, 12 federal police were killed in the western state of Michoacan after being ambushed. Three other federal police officers were slain the same day in the northern city of Chihuahua while investigating drug dealing.

Taxco became the center of a macabre investigation in May after authorities discovered that an abandoned mine had been used to dump bodies. Officials recovered the remains of 55 people before ending the search this month.

Among the bodies was that of Daniel Bravo Mota, a state prison director from Guerrero who had gone missing in late May. Officials said the dead were probably victims of feuding drug-trafficking groups.

About 23,000 people have died in drug-related violence since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon announced a crackdown on traffickers. Gangs have employed increasingly bold tactics, attacking troops and federal police in broad daylight.

Federal authorities said Tuesday that they suspect the Michoacan ambush was carried out by La Familia, a drug-trafficking organization known for beheading rivals and other brutal tactics.

In the western state of Nayarit, where a surge in violence has sparked widespread panic, Gov. Ney Gonzalez Sanchez announced Tuesday that he was calling off classes in public schools after Friday — three weeks early.

At least 32 people have died in a series of recent shootouts in the state between rival groups and between gunmen and Mexican troops. Rumors swirled on the Internet that schools would be targeted.

Gonzalez said the move was to prevent “psychosis” spurred by false rumors.

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