California travel blogger among 2 killed in Mexico's Tulum

MEXICO CITY (AP) - An Indian-born woman from San Jose, California was one of two foreign tourists killed in what appeared to be a gunfight at a drug gang in Mexico's Caribbean coastal town of Tulum.
Authorities in Quintana Roo, the state where Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun are located, said one of the dead women was Anjali Ryot.
An Instagram account of the same name showed a post two days ago from Ryot lounging and smiling on a pier by the sea in Tulum. It featured her as a travel blogger from Himachal, India, who lives in California. A linked Facebook page said she lived in San Jose.
A German woman who was killed was identified as Jennifer Henzold, although no hometown was immediately available for her.
Three other foreign tourists were wounded in the shooting late Wednesday in a street restaurant with a few tables just off the main street in Tulum. Among them were two Germans and one Dutch woman.
The Federal Foreign Office has issued a travel warning about the violence and advised its citizens, "If you are in the area of ​​Tulum or Playa del Carmen, do not leave your secure hotel complexes."
The shooting apparently broke out between two groups involved in street-level drug sales in the area, prosecutors said. The tourists were apparently dining in the restaurant and may have been caught in the crossfire.
The shooting took place in Tulum's "mini-quinta," a reference to Playa del Carmen's larger, more noticeable bar and restaurant zone known as Quinta Avenida or Fifth Avenue.
On Friday, the Citizens Observatorio of Tulum civic group released photos of hand-lettered signs that appeared in a local market in Tulum and were signed by a drug gang called Los Pelones, roughly "The Shaved Heads".
The sign said that the shooting was "a warning so you can see we mean business," adding, "You either stand in line or we will keep closing places like Mini Quinta," one Obvious warning, extortion claims to protect you from paying money.
"We are in control here," added the sign. The gang, part of the golf cartel, has long been extorting protection money from bars and nightclubs in Cancun, but has now apparently expanded its operations further south to Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The gang also fights against the Jalisco cartel and other groups for the area's lucrative drug market.
The murders threatened Tulum's reputation as a light-hearted, carefree beach town without the hustle and bustle of Cancun.
After the shooting, US tourist James Graham said he came to Tulum with the idea of ​​possibly buying a property there to rent through AirBnB. “Right now we're not so sure we're going to buy anything here,” said Graham.
"I think the surprising thing was that we thought that this type of crime isn't necessarily where the main tourist areas are just because it's such a big part of the economy," said Graham. "You'd think you'd be very careful to make sure the tourists feel very safe when you come here."
But there were signs that the situation had gotten out of hand months ago. In June, two men were shot dead and a third injured on Tulum Beach.
And in nearby Playa del Carmen, police carried out a massive raid on the beach town's restaurant-lined Quinta Avenida on Thursday and arrested 26 suspects - most of them apparently for drug sales - after a city policewoman was shot and most recently locked in the trunk of a car Week. Prosecutors said Friday they had arrested a suspect.
Crime "has increased a little through blackmail and drug sales to foreigners and Mexicans," said the prosecutor in a statement on the raid.
The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is putting its hopes in Tulum, where it has announced plans to build an international airport and a stop for the Mayan train that will loop around the Yucatan peninsula.

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