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Mexico: Beauty Queen Dies In Gang Gunfight
A Mexican beauty queen has been killed in a gunfight between soldiers and a suspected gang she was travelling with.
Authorities suspect that 22-year-old Maria Susana Flores Gamez, who was the Woman of Sinaloa 2012, was part of the gang and may have fired a gun in Saturday's violence.
An AK-47 assault rifle was found next to her body in the group's car.
"She was in the criminal group that clashed with army service members," Sinaloa state prosecutor Marco Antonio Higuera Gomez told a news conference.
He said a forensics test was positive for gunshot residue on her body, suggesting she fired a weapon.
Two men and two women, including Ms Gamez, and a soldier died in the gun battle in the municipality of Mocorito.
The army seized seven AK-47s, a grenade launcher, two grenades, a 40mm-calibre rifle, a handgun and around 1,000 cartridges.
Mexican media say the woman, who participated in the Miss Oriental Tourism pageant in China in May, was travelling with her boyfriend, a suspected hitman, when the shootout erupted. The boyfriend also died.
The armed group is linked to Orso Ivan Gastelum, the suspected leader of a group of hitmen working for the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.
Families and friends held a funeral in the state capital of Culiacan on Sunday, covering Ms Gamez in a veil amid a heavy military presence.
On its Facebook page, the organisers of the Nuestra Belleza Sinaloa pageant voiced their "deepest condolences" for the death of Ms Gamez, who was a "charming and happy young woman with a great future".
Ms Gamez is not the first state beauty queen to be embroiled in a gang-related incident.
In December 2008, Laura Zuniga, the winner of the Nuestra Belleza Sinaloa pageant that year, was arrested in the western state of Jalisco along with seven suspected Juarez cartel members.
More than 60,000 people have died in drug-related violence across Mexico since President Felipe Calderon, whose six-year term ends on Saturday, launched a military offensive against cartels in 2006.