Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

116 bodies found in US border pits

Attorney general Marisela Morales attends a press conference in Mexico City (AP)

Mexican investigators have found a total of 116 bodies in pits near the US border, 28 more than previously reported, attorney general Marisela Morales said.

Morales said a total of 17 suspects have been detained in relation to the killings in the northern state of Tamaulipas, some of whom have purportedly confessed to abducting passengers from buses and killing them.

Interior Secretary Francisco Blake Mora pledged to step up the presence of troops in the area where the killings occurred and not leave the area until the killers and drug gang members there have been caught.

The graves were found earlier this month in the township of San Fernando, the same area of Tamaulipas where investigators found the bodies of 72 migrants massacred by suspected drug cartel gunmen last August. Most of the 72 migrants were Central Americans, who frequently travel through the area to reach the United States.

Police say witnesses in the latest killing case have told them that gunmen pulled the victims, mostly young men, off passenger buses travelling through the San Fernando area in late March. Authorities blame the abductions on the Zetas drug gang, the same group accused in the migrant killings.

The motive for the bus abductions remains unclear, though prosecutors have suggested the gang may have been forcefully recruiting people to work for it.

San Fernando is a town about 90 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, on a well-travelled stretch of highway that runs near the Gulf Coast. It is an area regularly patrolled by the Mexican military.

The Zetas and rival Gulf Cartel are fighting in Tamaulipas over lucrative drug transit routes to the US.

Authorities are working to identify the bodies, one of which may belong to a US citizen, through DNA samples and other techniques.

Mexican authorities confirmed one victim was Guatemalan and said another was a man from central Mexico. Mexican prosecutors had previously said most of the bodies were probably Mexican citizens.

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