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16 killed in Acapulco shootout as tourists scurry for cover

ACAPULCO, Mexico — It was a shootout straight from Hollywood in the former playground of its biggest stars: Masked and heavily armed Mexican soldiers battled outlaws holed up in a cliffside mansion in a four-hour shootout that had tourists cowering in hotels nearby.

Roughly 3,000 shots flew, and 50 grenades exploded during the raucous gunbattle late Saturday that killed 15 gunmen and one soldier. Six others were wounded, including three bystanders.

More than a dozen tourists were evacuated from a neighboring hotel strip frozen in the 1950s, when Elizabeth Taylor held one of her many weddings in Acapulco and John Wayne and Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller threw lavish parties at Los Flamingos Hotel less than 100 yards from where gunfire broke out.

The battle erupted after soldiers received a tip that a group of armed men was gathered at a gated house in a seedy section of Acapulco where working-class homes bleed into 1950s mansions. One hotel across from the street from the shootout offers three-hour stays for 30 pesos, roughly $2.25.

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 to reinforce the men in the house, but they died in the shooting, said an army colonel, who led the operation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Inside, soldiers found four Guerrero state police officers bound and half naked who said they were being held hostage. They confiscated 47 guns, grenades and ammunition, as well as several cars.

Military officials said they are still investigating who the gunmen are. But given the weapons stash, large home and late-model cars, it looked like the normal trappings for drug cartels. No drugs were found.

No arrests were made after the shootout. The police hostages, who were still bound and sitting on the floor when reporters arrived, said they'd been held captive by the gunmen, according to the colonel, who gave reporters a tour of the house in a ski mask to protect his identity.

Soldiers didn't know the police were inside when the shootout began, and the colonel said their claims would be investigated.

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.

Children mourned

Grieving parents buried their children Sunday after a devastating day care fire killed 40 infants and toddlers Friday. Funeral processions drove slowly to churches in the northwestern city of Hermosillo decorated with balloons and flowers. President Felipe Calderon wished surviving children a speedy recovery and promised families full government support and a thorough investigation into the fire's cause.

16 killed in Acapulco shootout as tourists scurry for cover 06/07/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 7, 2009 9:52pm]
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