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2 dead after dramatic shootout near upscale Mexican resorts

Several cartels are fighting for the area’s lucrative retail drug trade.
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A group of drug gang gunmen stormed ashore a beach near luxury hotels in Cancun, Mexico, on Thursday and executed two drug dealers from a rival gang.

Video of the incident verified by NBC News shows guests hiding after being told to take cover at the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun. The resort said its staff "immediately engaged local authorities who are on the scene investigating the situation."

A statement from Quintana Roo's public safety secretary confirmed that two armed individuals were seen on the resort's beach area. The suspects, both believed to be drug dealers, were killed.

The attorney general’s office for the state of Quintana Roo also tweeted that rival gangs had faced off on the beach in Bahía Petempich.

“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.

Several cartels are fighting for the area’s lucrative retail drug trade.

Montes de Oca said one of the men targeted in the attack fled into one of the hotels before he died. The other was killed on the beach.

He added that 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.

Gov. Carlos Joaquin said the commando wore ski masks and arrived by boat at the beach. He called the attack “a serious blow to the development and security of the state ... putting the image of the state at grave risk.”

Montes de Oca said the gunment fled in a boat after the attack.

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 Oct. 20 in the beach town of Tulum.

A San Jose, California woman born in India, Anjali Ryot, and German citizen Jennifer Henzold were apparently hit by crossfire at a street-side eatery. Three other foreign tourists were wounded. They included two German men and a Dutch woman.

The gunfight apparently broke out between two groups that operate street-level drug sales in the area, according to prosecutors.

Montes de Oca said eight suspects in the Tulum attack had been detained in possession of firearms.

There have been signs that the situation in Quintana Roo state, where all the resorts are located, was out of control months ago. In June, two men were shot to death on the beach in Tulum and a third was wounded.

And in nearby Playa del Carmen, police staged a massive raid in October on the beach town’s restaurant-lined Quinta Avenida, detaining 26 suspects — most apparently for drug sales — after a city policewoman was shot to death and locked in the trunk of a car last week. Prosecutors said Friday they have arrested a suspect in that killing.