Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Kidnap victims found in mass grave

A municipal police vehicle sits parked at the entrance to a ranch in Tlalmanalco where a shallow grave was found (AP)

Five bodies pulled from a mass grave have been identified as some of the 12 people kidnapped three months ago from a Mexico City bar.

Assistant attorney general Renato Sales said 13 badly decomposed bodies have been pulled from a grave covered with cement, quicklime and asbestos discovered on Thursday on a rural ranch east of Mexico City.

Ricardo Martinez, a lawyer for relatives of the missing, said there is no doubt the other bodies would also be identified as the missing youths, most of whom are from the rough Mexico City neighbourhood of Tepito.

"They're going to wind up identifying all of them," he said. "I hope the SEIDO (the federal attorney general's office for organised crime) takes over the case, because now it's proven that this is organised crime."

Officials said the remains are at federal labs, where experts are using DNA tests, and they expect to have all of them identified soon. There was no immediate explanation about how the 13th body was related to the kidnapped youths. "At this point we have plainly identified through genetic testing Alan Omar Athiencia," aged 26, said Mr Sales, adding "we have sufficient evidence" to identify the bodies of two other men and two women.

The head of the federal forensics office, Sara Monica Medina, said the bodies of the other four - Gabriela Ruiz Martinez, Rafael Rojo Martinez, Guadalupe Morales Vargas, and Josue Piedra Moreno - had been identified from implants, tattoos and other physical characteristics, and further tests were pending.

Investigators found a pistol, a shotgun and several pairs of handcuffs at a home on the ranch where the mass grave was found.

The young bar-goers vanished from the Heaven club on May 26, close to the leafy Paseo de Reforma, the capital's equivalent of the Champs-Elysees. The bizarre disappearance resonated across the city of nine million people because many had come to believe it was an oasis from the rampant drug violence that had led to discovery of mass graves elsewhere in the country.

While drug gangs have carried out multiple killings in Mexico City, seldom had they involved so many victims, and it is rare for the victims to be buried in mass graves, as drug gangs have frequently done in northern Mexico.

Authorities set up a perimeter more than a mile from the excavation site on a hilly ranch known as La Negra, where federal police and attorney general's trucks and large white vans were seen. The private property next to Rancho La Mesa Ecological Park is walled and surrounded by oak and pine trees.

The federal Attorney General's Office said agents had received information about possible illegal weapons on the property and obtained a search warrant. When they started looking around, they discovered the grave. "They found a home that looked like a safe house," Murillo Karam said. "We were operating under the belief it was a weapons case."

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