Police free 51 kidnapped in Mexico

2011-04-26 15:42

Mexico City - Mexican police on Monday freed 51 people who had been kidnapped in the northeast of the country, including 18 Central American and six Chinese migrant workers, the public security ministry said.

The raid on a building in the northeastern town of Reynosa near the US border - where rival drug cartels battle it out for lucrative trade routes to the north - uncovered 14 Guatemalans, two Hondurans and two Salvadorans.

The other 27 detainees were Mexicans, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement did not mention any arrests during the operation.

Earlier this month police freed 68 kidnapped individuals, including 12 Central American migrants, in Reynosa.

Four policemen were detained on Monday in connection with the earlier release. Those who were rescued said they had been kidnapped when gunmen from the Gulf drug cartel hijacked the buses they were travelling on.

Reynosa is around 160km away from the town of San Fernando, where police have unearthed 177 bodies buried in unmarked graves.

Officials said the total probably includes 122 passengers from a bus that was commandeered near San Fernando, and have blamed the killings on the Zetas drug cartel, now in a bloody dispute with the Gulf, its former ally.

Victims yet to be identified

San Fernando was the same municipality where the Zetas last year kidnapped and slaughtered 73 immigrants from Central and South America on their way north to try to illegally cross into the United States.

Mexican police have also been unearthing bodies in the central city of Durango over the last two weeks. On Monday the state prosecutor's office said they had found an additional 17 corpses, bringing the total to 75.

Authorities have yet to identify the victims or say who might have been responsible for the killings.

Mexico has been convulsed by drug violence since the government launched a major military assault on the cartels in 2006, with about 34 600 people killed in shootouts among rival cartels and security forces.

Three policemen were shot dead on Monday in two separate incidents in the city of Monterrey, the state government said.

The shootings followed a series of deadly attacks on police and shops in recent days that have been blamed on drug gangs.

Also in Monterrey, seven Mexican soldiers were detained over the killing of a civilian during a gun battle last week, the state governor told reporters.

The dead man was initially assumed to have been a fighter, but authorities later concluded that he was not involved in the incident and that a gun found in his truck had been placed there after the shooting.