US Woman Killed in Resort Gang Violence

( – An American woman has died in a crossfire between Mexican drug gangs. Los Angeles native Niko Honarbakhsh was on vacation at a popular beach resort when violence erupted around her. Mexican police are searching for the suspects.

On February 9, Honarbakhsh, who grew up in Los Angeles but lived in Cancun, Mexico, was at the Mia Restaurant and Beach Club in the resort town of Tulum when three men entered the club. A man who was already there tried to flee when he saw them, but they opened fire, wounding him — and a stray bullet hit and killed Honarbakhsh.

The injured man, a drug dealer nicknamed “Belice” (“Belize” in Spanish) died later in the hospital. When he was shot he was carrying cocaine, pills, and bags of “brown granulated powder.” Although his nationality hasn’t been officially confirmed, locals believe he came from Belize, a Central American country on Mexico’s southern border.

Local media at first suggested Honarbakhsh was at the restaurant with Belice, but investigators say the dealer was there with another woman and 44-year-old Honarbakhsh was an innocent bystander. She wasn’t the first foreign tourist to fall victim to Tulam’s drug gangs; in 2021 two women, a German and an Indian travel blogger, were killed as they ate dinner when rival gangs started a shootout near a restaurant.

So far the suspects in the shooting haven’t been publicly named. However, police believe they know who they are and a manhunt is underway.

Mexico is still a popular tourist destination, but parts of it are becoming increasingly dangerous. In August 2023, the State Department issued a new travel advisory for the country, warning that violent crime is “widespread and common.” Although the department stopped short of advising Americans not to visit Mexico, it recommends that tourists follow the same restrictions that apply to US government employees, including not traveling between cities after dark, not hailing taxis on the streets and not traveling alone.

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