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Gunmen rape 6 tourists near Acapulco, Mexico

Alcapulco via Wiki Commons

Alcapulco via Wiki Commons

By David Ariosto

(CNN) — A pack of masked and hooded gunmen broke into a beach bungalow near Acapulco, Mexico, and raped six women tourists after tying up a group of men with cell phone cables and bikini straps, officials said Tuesday.

Another woman, also in the bungalow, was spared during the attack early Monday morning near the troubled beach resort city, known as a top spring break destination.

The victims — Spanish nationals in their 20s on vacation — are now under the protection of Mexican authorities. Spanish officials have been notified.

Acapulco Mayor Luis Walton condemned the attack during a Tuesday news conference and vowed to apprehend those responsible as world attention homed in on Pacific port city.

“It’s a very delicate situation,” he said. “We are going to have the full weight of the law against those responsible.”

He called it regrettable, apologized for the gunmen’s attack and said it would probably affect the image of Acapulco, which derives much of its revenue from tourism.

State prosecutor Martha Elba Garzon said her office would not reveal the names of the victims or anything related to the probe, but she vowed to uphold the “responsibility to provide security to tourists and our people.”

Acapulco, in the mountainous state of Guerrero on Mexico’s Pacific coast, was thought of as a relatively safe city despite rampant violence in the surrounding region. But a recent uptick in drug-related killings has compounded fiscal troubles brought on by the global financial crisis in the once glamorous Hollywood haunt.

After a series of gruesome murders in Guerrero, American and British authorities issued travel warnings.

In recent years, the region’s drug wars are thought to have impacted the city’s tourism sector as rival cartels vie for control of drug routes originating in South America. It is not clear if Monday’s attack was drug-related.

And yet the port city has also shown signs of a rebound.

Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal is expected to play at the Acapulco Open later this month, and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim recently promised a series of new investment projects.

Hotel occupancy rates inside Acapulco now hover around 65%, according to the city’s Municipal Tourism Board.

Image problem notwithstanding, Mexico has remained a top tourist destination for decades. It welcomed 20 million Americans in 2010, the latest year for which federal data is available.

The city of Acapulco brought in roughly half a million tourists last year. Most of them were Mexicans, including residents from the capital and Cuernavaca who flocked to beaches a four-hour drive away.

But the U.S. State Department said resort city bars, including those in Acapulco, can be “havens for drug dealers and petty criminals.”

The agency said “resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.”

Spain’s Foreign Ministry advises travelers that “while foreign tourists rarely are victims of kidnapping or extortion, they can be victims of assaults and robberies.”

It said the mountainous state of Guerrero “should especially be avoided,” or travelers should proceed with “extreme caution.”

“In Acapulco, organized crime has carried out violent incidents, although until now they have not affected foreign tourists or the places they frequent,” the agency said.

An estimated 107,000 Spaniards live in Mexico. They reside mostly in the capital.

CNN’s Ariel Crespo in Mexico City, Al Goodman in Madrid, and Nick Valencia and Catherine Shoichet in Atlanta contributed to this report. Nick Parker and Salomon Kauffman contributed to this report from Acapulco.

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