A gunbattle erupted on the main coast boulevard in the heart of this Pacific resort on Wednesday afternoon, killing six people, including a mother and her 8-year-old child. None of the victims appeared to be tourists.
One federal police officer died in a shootout with gunmen, but at least three of the dead seemed to have been bystanders caught in the crossfire. Five other people suffered wounds and about a dozen vehicles were riddled with bullets.
Federal police said they detained a 26-year-old and said he apparently worked for Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a U.S.-born drug capo who has been engaged in a bloody battle in the Acapulco area with former colleagues in the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel. Police said the gunbattle started when "armed men traveling in several vehicles opened fire on the occupants of another vehicle," killing both men.
It was unclear why the men were targeted. Drug gangs have staged shootouts in Acapulco before, but seldom in broad daylight amid heavy traffic, and never with such a toll among bystanders. Police tried to intercept the gunmen's vehicles. "In their attempt to escape, the assailants opened fire on several private vehicles, killing three people, including a child," federal police said in a statement.
While police officers may have tried to return fire, the area was littered with hundreds of shell casings from AK-47 assault rifles _ a weapon used almost exclusively by Mexico's drug cartels. The battle caused a huge traffic jam on the busy Miguel Aleman Boulevard, after some drivers crashed into each other and others tried to cross the palm-lined median strip in a desperate attempt to flee the shooting.
"An 8-year-old girl died when she was being transferred in an ambulance, and her mother also died," city police said in a statement. A policeman at the scene said the mother had apparently just picked her daughter up from school when they were caught in the hail of bullets.
The intersection where the shooting occurred marks the start of a strip where high-rise hotels alternate with open strips of beach and is among the city's most heavily traveled and best-known areas. Also Wednesday, the Mexican army said two soldiers and two gunmen died in a shootout in a northern Mexico area that has seen a recent spike in drug violence.
The army said soldiers patrolling in the border state of Nuevo Leon gave chase to six suspicious cars that crossed into neighboring Tamaulipas state, where a gunbattle ensued in the town of Comales. The army said in a statement Wednesday that three soldiers and several gunmen were wounded in the clash on Tuesday. It said that 200 soldiers and two helicopters were deployed to the area to locate the assailants.
The northeastern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, across from Texas, have seen a surge of violence in recent weeks that authorities blame on a fight between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas.