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Mexican police arrest members of drug gang behind the alleged killing of 8 people in Cancun

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Prosecutors said Monday they have arrested six members of a drug gang in the Mexican resort of Cancun that allegedly killed and hacked up five people with a machete, and dumped three other victims in a shallow grave.

The gang, which prosecutors say also engaged in extortion, was protected by a network of motorcycle taxis and minors who acted as lookouts.

Authorities also announced the arrest of 23 people on charges they operated a fake tour agency that served as a cover for drug sales in Cancun.

The suspects operated a call center in which they offered sports equipment and tour packages to tourists, but then failed to deliver them. On the second floor they had a complex operation in which drug deals were allegedly made over the phone and delivered by motorcycle.

Another suspect was arrested in Cancun who allegedly both ordered drugs on social media sites — which were delivered to him by express package service — and sold them also on social media, with home delivery included.

The revelations Monday came one day after prosecutors confirmed an American woman and a man from Belize were shot to death late last week in what appears to have been a dispute between drug dealers at a beach club in the resort city of Tulum, south of Cancun.

Prosecutors in Quintana Roo stressed the American woman had no connection to an alleged drug dealer also killed in the shooting Friday night. The woman appeared to have simply been caught in the crossfire.

Prosecutors said the dead man had cocaine and pills in his possession when he was killed, and was believed to be a dealer. They said the suspects in the shootings had been identified and were being sought.

The degree to which drugs are available in Mexico’s Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo is sometimes startling.

Last year, authorities shuttered 23 pharmacies at Caribbean coast resorts, six months after a research report warned that drug stores in Mexico were offering foreigners pills they passed off as Oxycodone, Percocet and Adderall without prescriptions.

Foreign tourists have been killed in the past after getting caught in drug gang shootouts in the once-tranquil beach resort.

In 2021 in Tulum, two tourists — one German and a California travel blogger born in India — were killed while eating at a restaurant. They apparently were caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between rival drug dealers.

Last year, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert warning travelers to “exercise increased situational awareness” especially after dark, at Mexico’s Caribbean beach resorts like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Tourists, however, continue to stream into Mexico’s Caribbean coast, the country’s leading tourist destination. Mexico's tourism department released figures Monday showing foreign tourists spent almost $31 billion in all of Mexico in 2023, up 10% from 2022. About half of all foreigners visiting Mexico go to Cancun.

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Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america