Mexico Says Ferry Explosion Not Due to Organized Crime or Terrorism

By Mark Browne | March 15, 2018 | 6:27pm EDT
Stills from a video posted online show the explosion on the ferry at Playa del Carmen on February 21, 2018. (Screen captures: YouTube)

Mexico City ( – The FBI and ATF are continuing to work with Mexican police investigating an explosion of a passenger ferry at a popular tourist resort, but Mexican investigators have ruled out both terrorism and organized crime as motives.

An online video shows the explosion ripping through the side of the ferry at the Playa del Carmen resort south of Cancun on February 21.

Alberto Elias Beltran, a federal official from the attorney general’s office, described the bomb as “rudimentary” or “home-made.”

“We have eliminated from suspicion organized crime or terrorism,” Beltran said during a press conference, adding that organized crime had been ruled out “because it is against their interests to have more security focused in the zone.”

Police have not named any suspects and Beltran provided no details of the investigation’s progress.

The bomb was a remote-controlled device containing five charges, according to the El Universal daily, citing an internal government investigation document.

Adding to security concerns, undetonated explosive devices were later found on a second ferry, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

The embassy temporarily closed its consular office in the tourist zone and prohibited American government personnel from using any ferry running between Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel “until further notice.” It also advised U.S. citizens to avoid using those ferry services, and that advice remains in place.

(After the blast U.S. government personnel were initially prohibited from traveling to Playa del Carmen altogether, although the embassy later lifted the restriction.)

Meanwhile a reportedly unconnected, unspecified security threat prompted the embassy last week to prohibit travel by U.S. government personnel to five neighborhoods near the Playa del Carmen resort.

It said in a statement the circumstances surrounding that threat were separate from those relating to the threat against the ferries.

The State Department is also advising U.S. citizens considering travel to the Mexican states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas not to do so due to “crime.”

With regard to the ferry blast investigation, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing last week there was some information she could not divulge, “because it’s still considered a security situation and we don’t want to be able to provide that information to the bad guys, if you will.”

Transport officials have suspended operations of the company whose ferry was targeted, according to a spokesman for the government of Quintana Roo, the state in which Playa del Carmen is located.

Ferries run by two other companies on that route are operating as normal, however, as are other ferries in the area.

The spokesman said security has been increased at all docks serving public transport in the state, especially at Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. Police dogs trained to sniff out explosives have been permanently assigned to the docking areas.

Federal police say some 900 security personnel have been recently assigned to the Caribbean coastal resort region including Cancun and Playa del Carmen, with security increased at nightclubs.

All beaches are open in the resort region, which police say hosts 19 million tourists a year.

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