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Mexican troops seize beauty queen

23 December 08 23:35 GMT

Troops at a vehicle checkpoint in western Mexico have detained a beauty queen and seven men along with guns and cash, police say.

The eight were stopped on the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico's second city, late on Monday night, reportedly following a tip-off.

Laura Zuniga, 23, was crowned Miss Sinaloa in July after her home state.

She reportedly told police she had been planning to travel with the men to Bolivia and Colombia "to go shopping".

Regional police director Francisco Alejandro Solorio was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that two SUVs were stopped at the checkpoint.

The SUV in which Ms Zuniga was found contained a large stash of weapons, including two AR-15 assault rifles, 38 special handguns, 9mm handguns, nine magazines, 633 cartridges and $53,300 in US currency, he added.

An unnamed police spokesman quoted by Reuters news agency said that security forces had received a tip-off that drug-traffickers were moving through the area on Monday night.

"No one expected this young woman to be aboard," the spokesman added.

Ms Zuniga came third in the Nuestra Belleza Mexico pageant in Monterrey in September and was expected to represent Mexico in the 2009 Miss International contest, AP notes.

Lupita Jones, the national director of Nuestra Belleza Mexico, released a statement distancing the organisation from the detainee.

She said that Nuestra Belleza knew nothing about "any illicit activity in which she could be involved" and would await the results of the police investigation before making any decision about whether to strip her of her crown.

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