Mexico's Caribbean coast rocked by new deadly shooting

4 min

Mexico City (AFP)

Mexico's Mayan Riviera was rocked by another shootout as an attack on the prosecutor's office left three people dead, a day after five died in a nightclub shooting.

A gunman and two staffers from the Quintana Roo state prosecutor's office died in Cancun after the building came under fire in broad daylight and police shot back, said state public security chief Rodolfo del Angel.

The gunfight caused panic in the Caribbean coast city, a day after three foreigners and two Mexicans died in a shooting at an electronic music festival in the nearby seaside resort of Playa del Carmen.

While it was not known whether the two shootings were linked, the back-to-back attacks broke the peace in a region that is popular among American, Canadian and European tourists and has avoided the sort of drug-related violence that has plagued other parts of Mexico.

Angel said in a video message on Twitter that authorities activated "code red" after the shooting but that the situation was under control.

The clash took place seven kilometers (four miles) away from the hotel area. Local media said authorities set up three checkpoints near the tourist zone.

"At the moment the state is peaceful, the citizens can remain calm, Cancun is doing well at this moment," he said.

The motive for the attack was not immediately known and Angel did not provide any other details.

- Streets deserted -

"The attack against the state prosecutor's office is unacceptable. We ask the population to remain calm," Mayor Remberto Estrada wrote on Twitter.

Mexican television showed footage in which intense gunfire could be heard. Soldiers and police guarded the building after the shooting.

State attorney general Miguel Angel Pech was not in the building at the time.

Sandra Ramirez, a 33-year-old maid who lives seven streets away from the prosecutor's office, said she could hear the gunfire and "explosions."

"I was having a siesta and the noise woke me up," Ramirez told AFP by telephone. "I went out later and police were reviewing every car that was going by."

Several stores were closed and the streets were deserted, she said.

In the past, she said, "things have happened, a dead person has appeared here or there, but never something like this."

- Nightclub attack, drug link? -

While Cancun was shaken, authorities were investigating the motive behind Monday's pre-dawn shooting at the Blue Parrot club during the BPM music festival in Playa del Carmen, 68 kilometers (42 miles) to the south.

Drug cartels have not perpetrated the same brutal violence seen in other states, but dealers often offer narcotics to tourists in the town.

The shooting "could be a case of small-time drug dealers fighting for control" of turf, Pech told the Televisa network.

Pech said a gunman fired five times at a Mexican man at the club and the victim's bodyguards or other people fired back.

When the shooter fled the club, he hit another person who was also armed and whose gun went off when he fell, wounding other people, Pech said.

A Canadian man and an Italian man, both of whom worked for the BPM electronic music festival, and the Mexican man, died from bullet wounds.

An American woman was trampled to death in a stampede as people fled the club in panic. Fifteen other people were wounded by bullets or hurt in the stampede.

Four people were detained near the scene of the crime but officials have not said if the shooter was among them.

Officials are also investigating whether the shooter showed up to kill the Mexican man, or whether the incident was linked to a dispute over an extortion racket against the club, or the dealers were not allowed to sell drugs inside the club.

Authorities are probing the background of the Mexican victim, who is originally from the eastern state of Veracruz. His family said he worked for a phone company and that he was related to a Veracruz state government official.

While authorities have surveillance camera footage, it is insufficient to identify the shooter, Pech said.