Gunmen attacked the state prosecutors’ office in this Caribbean resort city, and authorities said four people were killed, ratcheting up tensions just a day after a shooting at a music festival in a nearby town left three foreigners and two Mexicans dead. It was too early to say if the attacks were linked, but they were a marked intrusion of bloodshed into Mexico’s main tourism zone, a region that had previously been spared much of the violence plaguing other parts of the country.
The governor of Quintana Roo state, Carlos Joaquin, said three attackers and one police officer died in Tuesday’s incident. He said five suspected attackers were taken into custody. He urged calmed, saying the federal government was sending more security forces to the region.
A witness said the gunmen who attacked the prosecutors’ office also threw two explosive devices at a perimeter wall. A reporter at the scene saw police remove a body from a guard post near the building after the attack.
A few hours later, hundreds of people fled the Plaza de Las Americas shopping center after possibly hearing gunfire inside. It wasn’t clear what happened, or if any shots were fired, but soldiers swarmed into the mall.
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Irma Huxool, a woman who had just bought tickets to the movies, told The Associated Press that she heard three shots “at the entrance to the cinema” and people started running in confused panic. The US Consulate in Merida issued an alert about the incidents in Cancun and urged US citizens to take care and “to follow local authorities’ warnings and directives and consult with their hotels before leaving the premises.”
Earlier in the day, the hypothesis of drug links to the shooting in nearby Playa del Carmen before dawn Monday was strengthened after a banner briefly appeared along a roadside, signed by the “Old School Zetas,” part of the fragmented Zetas cartel, suggesting the attack was carried out as part of a battle against rival gangs.
Quintana Roo’s attorney general, Miguel Angel Pech, said investigators were looking into whether the banner referred to the BPM music festival or one of its organisers.
Pech said authorities were investigating whether extortion, street-level drug sales or a murder plot was the motive behind the shooting at the closing party for the BPM electronic music festival. Five people died and 15 suffered injuries.