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In brief: 29 killed on Guatemala ranch

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Assailants killed at least 29 people – decapitating most of the victims – on a ranch in a part of northern Guatemala plagued by drug cartels, national police said Sunday.

The massacre took place early Sunday in the town of Caserio La Bomba in Peten province near the Mexico border, according to National Civil Police spokesman Donald Gonzalez. Among the 29 dead were two children and two women.

It is one of the worst massacres since the end of Guatemala’s 36-year civil war in 1996.

Gonzalez said police are investigating whether the attack is related to Saturday’s killing in Peten of Haroldo Leon, the brother of alleged Guatemalan drug boss Juan Jose “Juancho” Leon.

Juancho Leon was killed in 2008 in an ambush that Guatemalan authorities blame on Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel, which has increasingly wrested control of the drug trade outside Mexico, at times by eliminating their competition.

Guatemalan police said the victims of Sunday’s massacre were bound and their bodies showed signs of torture. They were believed to have worked on the farm. Police found a message written in blood at the scene saying: “Salguero, we’re coming for you.” Police did not say who Salguero was.

Authorities said soldiers were searching the area for the unidentified assailants and didn’t offer a motive for the attack.

Quake strikes off Papua New Guinea

SYDNEY, Australia – A strong earthquake struck off the coast of Papua New Guinea today, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The magnitude 6.5 quake struck 76 miles west of Arawa, the capital of Bougainville province, at a depth of 27 miles , the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a destructive, widespread tsunami and that sea-level gauges in the region showed no unusual wave activity. But the agency did say earthquakes of this size can sometimes generate tsunamis along coasts within 60 miles of the epicenter.

Bill Yomba, an official with Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Center, said there were no reports of any tsunamis striking the coast or of any injuries or damage.