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The US state department has warned tourists to “completely avoid” five states in Mexico because of rampant crime levels and gang activity.

Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas have all been classified as a level-four risk, the highest in the scale.

Previously, the year with the most homicides had been 2011, when more than 27,000 people were killed according to official figures.

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In the case of Tamaulipas, it says that gun battles are widespread and warn of travel by both public and private bus as armed criminal groups take passengers hostage and demand ransom payments.

While the state department is warning travellers to stay away from the five states categorised as level-four risk, Mexico as a whole is classified as a level two, where travellers should “exercise increased caution”.