Hitman blamed for 22 Acapulco murders

Last updated 20:57 24/01/2011

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Mexican federal police have arrested seven drug gang members in the Pacific port of Acapulco, including the man behind the murders of 22 people in the resort this month, the government says.

The group is a splinter faction of the Beltran Leyva cartel, which has fragmented since Mexican marines killed its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, in December 2009, the federal police said in a statement. Police said the group's leader, Jose Lozano, was behind the 22 Acapulco murders.

The police did not provide other details or explain why the arrests, which occurred on Thursday, were not announced until Sunday.

Clashes between rival gangs seeking to control the flow of drugs through Acapulco have alarmed business leaders who worry the escalating violence will strangle the tourism industry.

Acapulco mainly caters to Mexican tourists, while resorts like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta are popular with foreign visitors. But the gory headlines have prompted fears foreigners will shy away from Mexico.

Fifteen bodies, some of which were decapitated, were dumped throughout Acapulco earlier this month.

Lozano's gang is also believed to be linked to the September murders of 20 Mexican mechanics visiting from the state of Michoacan, the police said.

More than 34,000 people have died in drug-related violence across Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched an army-led crackdown on the cartels upon taking office in December 2006.

Several cruise lines recently discontinued some service to Mexico, but the government has been anxious to highlight the continued popularity of the country as a tourist destination.

The number of visitors arriving by air in the first 11 months of 2010 rose 16.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to the tourism ministry.

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- Reuters

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