Six adults, two children shot to death in Guatemala jungle

GUATEMALA CITY Sat Feb 8, 2014 2:51pm EST

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GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Eight people including a baby and a young girl were killed on Saturday in their home in a dense jungle region in northern Guatemala known to be a hotly contested drug trafficking territory, officials said.

An unknown number of gunmen stormed the house early on Saturday morning, shooting dead six adults, a five-year-old girl and a three-month-old baby girl in a small farming village in the department of Peten, some 230 miles northeast of the capital city, an army spokesman said.

"There are six adults and two young girls dead," spokesman Ismael Cifuentes said. "They were all shot."

Officials said that they are still unsure of a motive for the killings and they have not yet made any arrests in connection with the massacre.

Home to rich biodiversity and national treasures such as the Mayan temples of Tikal, one of the largest pre-Colombian Maya sites, Peten shares a porous border with Mexico used by powerful drug cartels looking to smuggle South America cocaine to the United States.

In May 2011 members of Mexican cartel Los Zetas beheaded 27 farm workers in Peten in a dispute with the farm's owner over trafficking routes.

Entering his third year of a four-year term, President Otto Perez has promised to crack down on organized criminals who control large swaths of land in one of the world's most murderous nations on a per capita basis.

Homicides in Guatemala rose slightly in 2013 from 2012, to 6,072, calling into question Perez's ability to fight crime in the Central American nation where half of the roughly 15 million citizens live in poverty.

(Reporting by Mike McDonald; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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