Mexico rules out terrorism, organized crime in ferry blast

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A blast that injured more than two dozen in February in the Mexican resort town of Playa del Carmen was not an act of terrorism or organized crime, the Mexico attorney general’s office said on Sunday.

The explosion on a ferry docked at a Playa del Carmen pier was set off by a rudimentary or homemade device, acting Attorney General Alberto Elías Beltrán said at a news conference.

“The responsibility of terrorist organizations or organized crime has been ruled out,” he said. Officials did not offer any details on who they believe was responsible.

The explosion injured at least 25 people, including U.S. tourists. It marked another blow to the reputation of Mexico’s tourism industry, as the country’s soaring crime and long-running battle with drug cartels have increasingly disrupted resort towns.

Shortly before spring break, when thousands of U.S. college students descend on Mexican beach towns, the U.S. government on Wednesday barred its employees from traveling to Playa del Carmen. It cited an unspecified “security threat” and mentioning the blast. The government later limited the ban to certain neighborhoods.

Following the blast, the Mexico’s federal police will increase its deployment in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula which includes Cancun. It will prioritize areas frequented by tourists, Manelich Castilla, the top federal police chief, said at the news conference. He stressed that the Mexican government has the resources to keep the peace in tourist destinations.

“Reservations have not been canceled, and the beaches are open, without incident,” he said.

The ferry at the center of the explosion was operated by Barcos Caribe, which is owned by the family of former Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge, local media reported. Borge was extradited from Panama to Mexico in January and has been jailed on corruption charges.

Barcos Caribe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Julia Love and Noe Torres, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Cynthia Osterman