Mexico shooting: Tourists dash for shelter as rival drug gangs battle at beach resort

Tourists at a beach resort in Mexico were left scrambling for cover after a gang of men shot dead two suspected drug dealers in front of several luxury hotels.

Gunmen stormed a beach in front of the high-end resort of Puerto Morelos, just south of Cancun on Thursday.

They then shot dead two men, who were allegedly drug dealer rivals, forcing holidaymakers to flee the crossfire.

The victims had apparently arrived at the beach in front of the Azul Beach Resort and the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun earlier in the day, claiming it was now their territory.

"About 15 people arrived on the beach to assassinate two men who had showed up saying they were the new dealers in the area," the head prosecutor of Quintana Roo state, Oscar Montes de Oca, told the Radio Formula station.

Mr Montes de Oca's office said earlier in a statement that "there was a clash between rival groups of drug dealers on a beach" near the hotels.

One of the men targeted in the attack ran into one of the hotels before dying, while the other was killed on the beach.

The prosecutor also said one person suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the attack, but authorities could not determine whether that person was a hotel employee or a guest because they were still undergoing medical treatment.

Guests at the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun posted videos and photos of tourists hiding or nervously milling in the lobby and hallways of hotels during the incident.

Meanwhile, tourists at the nearby Azul Beach Resort posted footage of people taking shelter or gathering in the lobby.

An employee who answered the phone at the hotel said the shooting occurred on the beach near the facility.

Mike Sington, a guest at the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun, wrote on Twitter: "Guests are telling me they were playing volleyball on the beach, gunman approached firing gun.

"Everyone ran from beach and swimming pools. Staff hustled us into hidden rooms behind the kitchens."

"I've never been so scared, literally shaking.

"I'm fine now, barricaded in my hotel room for the night, just trying to decompress."

Several cartels are fighting for the area's lucrative retail drug trade, including the Jalisco cartel and a gang allied with the Gulf cartel.

Governor Carlos Joaquin said the gunmen wore ski masks and arrived by boat at the beach. Mr Montes de Oca said they fled in a boat after the attack.

Mr Joaquin called the attack "a serious blow to the development and security of the state... putting the image of the state at grave risk".

The shootings were the latest chapter in drug gang violence that has sullied the reputation of Mexico's Caribbean coast as a once-tranquil oasis.

Rival cartels often kill another gang's street-level dealers in Mexico to eliminate competition and ensure their drugs are sold first. It is not the first time that tourists have been caught in the crossfire of such battles.

The Puerto Morelos shooting comes two weeks after a California travel blogger and a German tourist were killed in a similar shootout in the beach town of Tulum.