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Slaying highlights violence at Mexican tourist hotspot

From Journalist Salomon Kaufman and Catherine Shoichet, CNN
February 25, 2013 -- Updated 1146 GMT (1946 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Violence in Acapulco made headlines recently when hooded men allegedly raped six tourists
  • Early Saturday, a Belgian national died of a gunshot wound to the chest
  • The state of Guerrero is one of the most dangerous places in Mexico
  • Overall, violence in Mexico appears to be on the decline

Acapulco, Mexico (CNN) -- A Belgian national has become the latest casualty in a popular Mexican tourist destination plagued by violence.

Jan KM Sarens, 59, died from a gunshot wound to the chest at a shopping center in Acapulco before dawn Saturday, prosecutors say.

A high-profile rape case three weeks ago cast a spotlight on the resort city in Guerrero state. Hooded gunmen allegedly burst into a beach bungalow and accosted six women from Spain after tying up their male companions.

For years, Guerrero has ranked among the Mexican states with the highest homicide rates. Last year, it had more reported gun murders than any other state in Mexico: more than 1,600, according to a federal government tally released last month.

Community police take on Mexican cartels

Major drug cartels are part of a deep-seated security problem in the region, said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst at the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness think tank. Large cartels have fragmented, and the resulting smaller gangs are battling each other over turf in the Pacific port city and the surrounding state.

Sarens had temporary resident status in the country and worked in Mexico City, the Guerrero attorney general's office said in a statement.

At the time of his killing, the Mexican army, navy, and federal and state police were patrolling the area to beef up security for the Mexican Open professional tennis tournament.

Nationwide, official figures indicate violence in Mexico may be declining. In 2012, there were 20,568 intentional homicides across the country, an 8.5% decrease from 2011.

CNN's Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.

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