Natalia Parra, AP, June 7, 2009
Mexican soldiers fought a two-hour battle with heavily armed men holed up at a house in an Acapulco hotel zone, killing 15 of the gunmen as Mexican tourist cowered in their rooms nearby.
One soldier was killed and the wounded included three soldiers and three bystanders. Several Mexican tourists were evacuated from small hotels in a faded neighborhood once frequented by Hollywood stars.
When soldiers arrived at the house on a tip, the gunmen opened fire and hurled some 50 grenades, according to an Army colonel, who wore a ski mask to protect his identity as he led reporters on a tour of the scene Sunday. He spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Several gunmen tried to flee, but crashed their car into a military Hummer that was blocking the gate. At one point, more armed men with grenades arrived by car to reinforce the gunmen in the house, but they died in the shooting, the colonel said.
Soldiers found four Guerrero state police officers handcuffed inside the garage of the house, the colonel said. The officers, who were still bound and sitting the floor when reporters arrived, said they’d been held captive by the gunmen, the colonel said.
The gunbattle raged just blocks from a residence owned decades ago by the late “Tarzan” actor Johnny Weissmuller, and about 100 meters (yards) from Hotel Los Flamingos, owned in the 1950s by John Wayne. The hotel is still popular with older American tourists.
It was unclear whether the gunmen belonged to one of drug cartels that have been fighting for turf in Guerrero state, home to Acapulco and the resort town of Zihuatanejo, the colonel said.
President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 45,000 soldiers across Mexico to battle drug violence. More than 10,800 people have died since the offensive began in December 2006.