Staff and tourists near the Mexican resort city of Cancún have been sent rushing for shelter after a group of armed men entered the beach outside a luxury hotel and opened fire.
Two men were killed on Thursday in what state officials described as a confrontation between drug dealers at the Hyatt Ziva in Puerto Morelos, just south of Cancún.
“No tourists were seriously hurt or kidnapped,” said the security secretariat for the surrounding Quintana Roo state on Twitter.
The assailants, who were reportedly armed with “long guns”, stormed into the beach area and seized one man at gunpoint amid a sea of panicking tourists, according to local news website Noticaribe. At least one unidentified person was injured after being struck with the butt of a weapon.
The Quintana Roo state prosecutor’s office blamed the incident on a “confrontation” between drug dealing gangs, which claimed two lives.
“There were no serious injuries,” the office said in a tweet.
A person who answered the phone at the hotel said she was unaware of any incidents at the site. A Hyatt spokesperson said in an email: “We understand the hotel team immediately engaged local authorities, who are on the scene investigating the situation.”
The incident sparked terror among hotel guests.
“Men with guns stormed the beach and started shooting,” tweeted Andrew Krop, a guest at the hotel. “Please spread the word and get help on this. I have no idea what to do.”
A person answering the phone at the hotel said she was unaware of any incidents at the site. A Hyatt spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Mike Sington, a retired Hollywood executive who was also staying at the hotel tweeted: “All guests and employees were told to duck and we’re being taken to hiding places.”
He confirmed in a DM to the Guardian he was “hiding in a dark room”. He later tweeted that emotionally shaken guests had come out of hiding.
Some of the guests shared stories of “playing volleyball on the beach, gunman approached firing gun. Everyone ran from beach and swimming pools.”
The incident comes days after a Californian travel blogger and a German tourist were killed at a restaurant in the nearby beach resort of Tulum during a shootout between suspected gang members.
Cancún and the Mayan Riviera, which unfolds to the south, attract millions of tourists annually and area major source of foreign income for Mexico.
But the region has been plagued by violence as drug cartels dispute territories and run extortion rackets.
Tourists – who have continued to flock to the region throughout the pandemic – represent a substantial local market for drug dealers, and thanks to their strategic locations and transitory populations, Mexico’s tourist destinations have also been prime territory for the country’s criminal groups.
Meanwhile, the government’s strategy of targeting “kingpins” has exacerbated the conflict, as crime groups fracture into rival factions competing for territory and trade.
In Cancún, at least four cartels are thought to be contesting routes to smuggle cocaine in from South America and a local drug market targeting tourists and locals.