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MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

In Mexico, 13 killed in Acapulco area, 11 others elsewhere in Guerrero

Five police officers are slain and the bullet-riddled bodies of eight men are found in Acapulco just as foreign tourists are arriving for spring break.

March 14, 2010|By Tracy Wilkinson

Reporting from Mexico City — At least 13 people were killed Saturday, some of them beheaded, around the popular beach resort of Acapulco, just as foreign visitors have begun arriving for spring break.

Elsewhere in the Guerrero state where Acapulco is located, 11 other people, including soldiers and suspected traffickers, were killed, authorities said.

The dead in Acapulco included five police officers, authorities said, who were ambushed while on patrol on the city's outskirts about 2 a.m.

Over the next four hours, the bullet-riddled bodies of eight men were discovered in three locations, police said. Four had been beheaded, in the style typical of drug traffickers who have been at war with one another and with government forces for three years.

The government is especially sensitive to reports of drug-war violence in tourist destinations such as Acapulco and Cancun. But no region is immune. Guerrero state is one of Mexico's most violent: Its position on the Pacific coast makes it a prime transit route for smuggling narcotics to the U.S. and coveted turf for warring cartels.

In June, as Acapulco was putting its hopes on a recovering tourist industry, 18 gunmen and soldiers were killed in battles one weekend in one of the city's seaside neighborhoods.

News channels have been showing video of young U.S., Canadian and European tourists already frolicking on the beaches of Acapulco, as if to say "maybe this year" and convey a sense of normality. And this weekend is a holiday; thousands of Mexican tourists were headed to Acapulco to take advantage of a three-day weekend marking the birthday of 19th century President Benito Juarez.

Heriberto Salinas Altes, head of public security for Guerrero, said authorities were expecting an increase in violence because of newly exploded power struggles among drug gangs.

"We wish to say that security for visitors [to Acapulco] as well as for people who live here is guaranteed," Salinas told La Jornada newspaper.

More than 18,000 people have been killed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon deployed the army to battle cartels in December 2006.

wilkinson@latimes.com

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