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Apr 25, 8:07 PM EDT

Gunmen in Acapulco attack police at headquarters, hotel



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ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) -- Armed men launched near-simultaneous assaults on police in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, leaving one attacker dead and an officer wounded and terrifying residents in what has become one of the world's deadliest cities.

The attacks Sunday night targeted local federal police headquarters in a beachside tourist quarter and a hotel across town where many of its agents are lodged.

The city's coastal boulevard was temporarily closed due to the firefight, and restaurants, bars and stores sealed their doors with customers inside to avoid getting caught up in the violence.

Two security officials said an attacker was killed and his body recovered in a vehicle that was left behind, while an officer was wounded in the leg. They were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Though the death toll was low, the firefight was apparently fierce. On Sunday and Monday, Acapulco residents posted videos on social media sites in which repeated bursts of automatic weapon fire can be heard. The confrontation reawakened memories of shootings on the coastal boulevard in 2010.

Guerrero state Attorney General Javier Olea told journalists the attacks may have been a response to recent detentions of drug cartel leaders, but did not give more details.

However one of the security officials told The Associated Press that a hypothesis links the violence to the capture hours earlier of the suspected local leader of a group working for the cartel of the Beltran Leyva brothers.

The governor of Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located, called for calm.

"We have the situation under control," Gov. Hector Astudillo told a news conference, after some schools in the city didn't hold classes because parents were afraid to send their children. Astudillo said 52 packets of money were found in one of the vehicles used by the attackers, and said they appear to be part of a gang payroll. The state prosecutors' office described the confrontation as "a confrontation between two criminal gangs."

The state police department released a statement saying "it is worth noting that in the attack no civilians, police or tourists were wounded, the only person killed was a criminal suspect." The state police were apparently referring only to their own officers.

The prosecutors' office called on residents "to ignore several messages ... on social media sites that say there is a curfew in Acapulco," and called on them to "go about their daily activities, and the students to return to their schools."

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Acapulco called on parishioners to pray, "avoid going near areas where violence is occurring, and above all, not to lose hope for recovering our city."

But avoiding areas like the coastal boulevard, with its numerous hotels, restaurants and views of Acapulco bay, is almost impossible for city residents. It is the city's main artery, and once was one of its main tourist attractions.

The attack comes despite a significant buildup in security forces patrolling the city. Astudillo said there are 1,200 federal police and 2,000 military personnel assigned to Acapulco.

Elsewhere in Guerrero state, a journalist was gunned down at the door of his home in the colonial city of Taxco on Monday morning.

Francisco Pacheco Beltran, 49, a print and radio correspondent and editor of the newspaper Foro de Taxco, was shot by an unknown assailant, according to the state prosecutor's office.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said family members of Pacheco Beltran said he "was attacked in front of his home by an unknown number of assailants and received two gunshots to the back of his head ... as he returned from taking one of his daughters to a bus terminal."

"Federal authorities must thoroughly investigate the execution-style murder of Francisco Pacheco Beltran and exhaust all possible motives, including links to his work as a journalist," wrote CPJ's Americas Coordinator, Carlos Lauria.

Mexico's governmental Human Rights Commission condemned the shooting, which it said was the fifth killing of a journalist in Mexico so far this year.

Acapulco, once a favorite among Hollywood stars and legions of American tourists, has seen a rash of killings blamed on warring gangs in recent years.

In 2015, the city of about 800,000 residents registered 902 killings. In the first three months of this year there were 205 homicides, higher than during the first quarter of last year but lower than at the peak of violence in 2012, when the city averaged almost 100 homicides per month.

Earlier this month, the U.S. government prohibited its workers from traveling to Acapulco in response to the violence. Most of the surrounding state of Guerrero is also off-limits for U.S. employees.

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