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US journalist killed in Mexico shootout

Brad Will, a cameraman working with Indymedia New York was killed when gunmen opened fire in Mexico's colonial city of Oaxaca.

india Updated: Oct 28, 2006 14:42 IST

Gunmen opened fire in Mexico's colonial city of Oaxaca on Friday, killing three people, including a US journalist, near roadblocks set up by leftists pushing to topple a state governor.

Brad Will, a cameraman working with Indymedia New York, was shot in the chest and died before reaching the hospital, the independent news group said on its Web site.

Oaxaca's state prosecutor's office said two others, including a protesting teacher, were also shot to death.

Nine people, mostly protesters, have been killed in a conflict that began in Oaxaca state five months ago, when striking teachers and leftist activists occupied much of the colonial city, storming Congress and blocking hundreds of streets in an effort to oust state Gov Ulises Ruiz.

The conflict has escalated with increasingly frequent drive-by style gun attacks against the protesters' barricades.

Will died in one of at least two shootouts on Friday in the city, a popular tourist spot. Teacher Emilio Alonso was shot in a separate attack.

Several people were wounded in the shootings.

An agency photographer said gunfire rattled for over an hour near barricades at the edge of the city, famous for its architecture, thriving arts scene and indigenous culture.

Earlier in the day, activists blocked highways near the city and burned vehicles. Flights were canceled amid worries that protesters would occupy the city's airport.

Protest leader Flavio Sosa called on the activists to be ready for further attacks.

"We must prepare to defend ourselves with bottles of gasoline, clubs, stones, whatever comes to hand," he said.

Tony Garza, US ambassador to Mexico, called Will's death "senseless" and urged US citizens to consider carefully the risks associated with travelling to Oaxaca.

This week, striking teachers voted to return to classes but many protesters say they will not back down until Ruiz, who blames the protesters for the violence, is ousted.

The crisis is a major headache for outgoing President Vicente Fox, who vows to find a solution before leaving office on December 1 but has resisted calls to send federal police or troops to regain control of the streets.

Critics accuse the governor of corruption and repressive tactics against dissenters, whose roadblocks have driven tourism from the city and hurt business.

The protesters say Ruiz is behind the shootings

Ruiz refuses to step down and says he still controls Oaxaca, where no uniformed police have patrolled since being fought off by protesters during a failed attempt in June to break up a protest camp in the city's central square.