Monday, June 8, 2009

Acapulco tourists were close to crossfire

June 7, 2009, 10:19PM

Soldiers hold a position during the gunfight in Acapulco, Mexico, on Saturday in a tourist area frequented by Americans on cruise ships and residents of Mexico City and its suburbs.

MEXICO CITY — Mexican soldiers killed 16 suspected gangsters and lost two of their own during a fierce battle in the resort city of Acapulco, military officials said Sunday.

Nine other soldiers and at least three civilians were reported injured in the shootout, which erupted Saturday night in a once-fashionable and now-shabby part of the city.

The clash is the latest blow to the resort city, which has been battered by the U.S.- spawned economic crisis and this spring’s swine flu outbreak, which have caused national and foreign tourism to plummet at all Mexico’s beach destinations. Cruise ships had only begun calling again at Acapulco in mid-May.

Soldiers arrested five suspected mobsters. They also detained four Guerrero state police officers found handcuffed but alive inside a house. The policemen claimed to have been kidnapped by the gangsters, whom officials linked to the Beltran Leyva narcotics smuggling syndicate.

“If they were kidnapped, as they say, then we rescued them,” said an army colonel who gave local reporters a tour of the shootout scene, according to the Associated Press.

Soldiers also seized 36 assault rifles, two grenade launchers and 13 pistols and 3,500 rounds of ammunition from the scene, the Defense Ministry reported.

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