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Forensic technicians and hotel employees stand near a scene where two Canadian citizens were shot dead and one was injured at Hotel Xcaret, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, on Jan. 21, 2022.STRINGER/Reuters

Two Canadians who were fatally shot in a targeted attack at a luxury resort in Mexico had lengthy criminal records, Mexican authorities alleged Saturday as they searched for a suspect in the shooting, which also injured a third Canadian.

The incident occurred shortly after 2:30 p.m. on Friday as an argument between hotel guests turned violent, according to Mexican security officials. Five gunshots shattered the sense of serenity at the Xcaret hotel, set amid the lush tropical landscape of Playa del Carmen, an hour south of Cancún.

A purported video of the crime scene posted to social media showed tourists wailing as an unidentified person received first aid. It then showed two men – one lying in a pool of blood – motionless on the floor of a poolside restaurant.

Local media reports said one of the victims, a 34-year-old male, died while being transported to a hospital. Another 34-year-old man died while receiving medical treatment at the hospital. The reports said a 29-year-old female guest was also shot. There has been no word from authorities on her condition.

Lucio Hernandez Gutierrez, public security secretary for Quintana Roo state, confirmed Friday on Twitter that all three shooting victims were Canadians.

Prosecutors in the state, where Cancún and Playa del Carmen are located, said on Twitter that the deceased were known to police in Canada and had criminal records. The prosecutor’s office alleged one of them was involved in several criminal activities, including drug trafficking. Authorities have not released the names of any of the victims.

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement that it was aware of reports that Canadian citizens had been affected by an incident in Mexico. Spokesperson Patricia Skinner said consular officials were contacting local authorities to gather more information, and that Canada stands ready to provide consular assistance. Because of privacy considerations, no further information could be disclosed, Ms. Skinner said.

The unidentified assailant – who state officials said was also a guest of the hotel – was shown in photos wearing a grey track suit and brandishing a pistol. He fled the premises into the jungle surrounding the secluded resort. His whereabouts remain unknown.

The region surrounding Playa del Carmen is experiencing a surge in violence, which authorities and security analysts blame on criminal groups disputing drug dealing territories.

Gunmen on jet skis stormed the beach of a luxury hotel in Puerto Morelos in November, killing a cartel rival and abducting another person hiding in the hotel.

A California travel blogger and a German tourist were struck and killed while dining in Tulum in October, as a shootout between suspected gang members erupted on a popular tourist strip.

Tourism has bounced back strongly in Mexico since the early days of the pandemic, despite a recent surge in cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, because the government does not ask travellers for COVID-19 test results or proof of vaccination upon arrival.

“The demand for drugs on the part of tourists is fuelling a bloody dispute between cartels for this business. It’s a very juicy business and all these narco groups want to participate. That leads to disputes over territories,” said Vicente Carrera, publisher of the online news organization Noticaribe in Playa del Carmen.

“It’s becoming common that foreigners involved in drug dealing are being arrested,” Mr. Carrera said, but he noted that it remains unusual for them to be targets of gang violence.

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