California blogger among 2 killed in Tulum, Mexico

Updated 2 hours and 30 minutes ago

MEXICO CITY (AP) – An Indian-born San José, Calif., Woman was one of two foreign tourists killed in the apparent crossfire of a drug gang shooting at the Mexican resort town of Tulum on the Caribbean coast.

Authorities in Quintana Roo, the state where Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun are located, said one of the women who died was Anjali Ryot.

An Instagram account of the same name showed a post of Ryot lounging and smiling on a seaside pier in Tulum two days ago. He listed her as a travel blogger from Himachal, India, living in California. A linked Facebook page said she lived in San Jose.

A German woman who was killed has been identified as Jennifer Henzold, although no hometown was immediately available to her.

Three other foreign tourists were injured in the shooting on Wednesday night at a street-side restaurant that has outdoor tables, just off Tulum’s main street. They included two German men and a Dutch woman.

The shooting apparently broke out between two groups that sell drugs at street level in the area, according to prosecutors. The tourists were apparently dining at the restaurant and may have been caught in the crossfire.

The shooting took place in Tulum’s “Mini-Quinta”, a reference to the larger and flashier area of ​​bars and restaurants in Playa del Carmen known as Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue.

On Friday, Tulum’s civic group Citizens Observatorio posted photos of handwritten signs appearing at a local market in Tulum, signed by a drug gang known as Los Pelones, with roughly “shaved heads.”

The sign said the shooting “was a warning, so you can see we’re serious,” adding “either you’re standing in line or we’ll continue to shut down places like the Mini Quinta,” an apparent warning to pay the demands. extortion of money protection.

“We have control here,” added the sign. The gang, which is part of the Gulf Cartel, has long extorted money to protect Cancun bars and nightclubs, but has apparently expanded its operations further south to Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The gang is also fighting the Jalisco Cartel and other groups for the region’s lucrative drug market.

The murders threatened Tulum’s reputation as a low-key and carefree beach town without the overcrowding and problems of Cancun.

After the shooting, American tourist James Graham said he came to Tulum with the idea of ​​possibly buying property there to rent on AirBnB. “At the moment we are not sure we will buy anything here,” Graham said.

“I think what was surprising was that we figured this type of crime wouldn’t necessarily be where the main tourist areas are, just because it’s such a big part of the economy,” Graham said. “You would think you would be very careful to make sure you know tourists feel very safe coming here.”

But there were signs the situation got out of hand months ago. In June, two men were shot dead on Tulum beach and a third was injured.

And in nearby Playa del Carmen, police staged a massive raid on the resort town’s restaurant-lined Quinta Avenida on Thursday, arresting 26 suspects – most apparently for dealing drugs – after a city policewoman was shot and locked in the trunk of a car for the last time this week. Prosecutors said Friday they arrested a suspect in the murder.

Crime “has increased a bit with the extortion, with drug sales to foreigners and Mexicans,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement regarding the raid.

The administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has placed its hopes on Tulum, where it has announced its intention to build an international airport and a stop for the Maya train, which will cycle around the Yucatan peninsula.

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