Seven adults, two children shot to death in Guatemala jungle

GUATEMALA CITY Sat Feb 8, 2014 10:07pm EST

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

Twenty men stormed the house early on Saturday morning, shooting dead six adults, a 5-year-old girl and a 3-month-old baby girl in a small farming village in the department of Peten, some 230 miles northeast of the capital city.

Another woman who was injured in the attack later died in hospital.

The shooting appears to be related to a fight between local drug traffickers, security minister Mauricio Lopez said.

"There's a lot of conflict in this area related to drug trafficking," he said. "We believe the men that carried out this attack were involved in drug trafficking."

Security officials are still conducting interviews with witnesses and they have not yet made any arrests.

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, Dan Grebler and Lisa Shumaker)

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