Monday, March 4, 2024

2 foreigners, including 1 US citizen, killed in Tulum shooting

A woman from the United States was killed at a beach club in the resort town of Tulum on Friday during an armed attack that targeted an alleged member of a local crime group.

Media reports identified the woman as 44-year-old Niko Honarbakhsh, who was originally from Los Angeles but lived in Cancún.

The Quintana Roo Attorney General’s Office (FGE) said in a statement that a foreign man, an alleged criminal known as “Belice” (Belize), was also killed. It didn’t explicitly say he was from Belize — which borders Quintana Roo — but some reports assumed that was the case.

The attack occurred at the Mia Restaurant and Beach Club, which describes itself as “the best beach club” in Tulum.

The FGE said Sunday that it had identified the perpetrators of the attack and was working to apprehend them. Three people entered the restaurant in search of a diner who attempted to flee upon seeing them, the El Universal newspaper reported.

The FGE stressed that the female victim was in no way linked to “Belice,” who died at a hospital from gunshot wounds he sustained.

At least one media outlet suggested that the two victims were a couple, but an alleged photo of them together showed a different woman, the FGE said.

Honarbakhsh, identified by some reports as the wife of a former DEA agent, was apparently killed by a stray bullet.

The FGE said that “Belice” was accused of drug dealing and belonged to a criminal group considered a “generator of violence” in Quintana Roo, a state which also includes the tourist hotspots of Cancún and Playa del Carmen.

It said that at the time of his murder, he was in possession of bags of white powder with the “characteristics” of cocaine as well as red and orange pills and a small bag of brown-colored powder.

Foreigners have been killed in previous armed attacks in Tulum, including one in October 2021 that left a German woman and an Indian woman dead. They, and three other foreign tourists who were wounded, were caught in the crossfire of a shootout between drug gangs.

Shortly before spring break last year, the United States government advised U.S. citizens to “exercise increased caution in the downtown areas of popular spring break locations, including Cancún, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum, especially after dark.”

Quintana Roo was Mexico’s 17th most violent state in terms of total homicides last year. There were 722 murders in the Caribbean coast state in 2023, according to preliminary government data, an increase of 14.6% compared to 2022.

With reports from El Universal and ABC 

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