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CANCUN, Mexico – Gunfire broke out at a crowded beachfront nightclub throbbing with electronic music on Monday, leaving five people dead and setting off a bloody stampede by screaming concertgoers at an international festival in the Caribbean resort of Playa del Carmen.
Quintana Roo state Attorney General Miguel Angel Pech ruled out any terror attack, but said the shooting erupted when festival security personnel tried to stop a man from entering the Blue Parrot club with a gun.
Three of those killed were part of the security detail at the 10-day BPM electronic music festival, Pech said. State officials said the dead included two Canadians, an Italian and a Colombian. The gunman apparently fled.
"I was thinking it was the same thing that happened in Paris, some guy just walking in and shooting people at a restaurant, bang bang bang, a terrorist attack," said New Zealand tourist Tyler Klee, who was outside the club when shots rang out.
"Everyone run, everyone was terrified, looking for their friends ... We were running away and then you hear more shots fired, like you don't know if you're going to shot in the back or not."
His friend Ben Forbes, from Australia, said "it happened pretty quickly as well ... You still didn't know where they were, how many there were."
The shots set off a rush for the exits that accounted for at least some of the injuries. The lone female victim was apparently killed during the stampede. Rescue workers tended to bloodied survivors and Pech said 15 people were injured, included one Mexican woman who was seriously injured.
Pech said eight of the injured — including two U.S. citizens — had been treated for less serious injuries at local hospitals and released. Canada's Global Affairs office confirmed at least one Canadian died, said it was investigating the other reported fatality, and said at least two Canadians were injured.
Italy's Foreign Ministry confirmed one its citizens died.
The attorney general said a lone gunman apparently tried to enter the nightclub at about 2:30 a.m., but was denied access because he had a gun.
The gunman began to exchange fire with another person inside, he said, and festival security personnel who tried to stop the shooting came under fire. He said 20 bullet casings from three different pistols had been found at the scene, and said it was unclear if the security detail had been armed or fired any of the weapons.
Pech said the gunman himself apparently escaped, though three people had been detained nearby. It was not known if they had been involved in the shooting.
"We know of another shooting incident that occurred near the nightclub, but we are investigating whether that is related" to the nightclub shootings," Pech said.
The government of the township that includes Playa de Carmen referred in a statement to "attackers who fired shots," but did not provide further details.
Rodolfo Del Angel, director of police in Quintana Roo, told the Milenio TV station that he shooting was the result of "a disagreement between people inside" the nightclub and said security guards had come under fire when they tried to contain the dispute.
Playa del Carmen has largely been spared the violence that has hit other parts of Mexico.