Mexico officials find mass grave east of capital

ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON, Associated Press
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Composite of images taken from flyers made by relatives showing 10 of at least 12 young people who were kidnapped in broad daylight from an after hours bar in Mexico City on May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Composite of images taken from flyers made by relatives showing 10 of at least 12 young people who were kidnapped in broad daylight from an after hours bar in Mexico City on May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

TLALMANALCO, Mexico (AP) — Mexican authorities said Thursday that they have found a mass grave east of Mexico City and are testing to determine if it holds some of the 12 people who vanished from a bar in an upscale area of the capital nearly three months ago.

At least five corpses have been recovered so far from the grave in Tlalmanalco, Mexico City prosecutor Rodolfo Rios told Radio 88.9, and he said officials would run DNA tests to determine their identities. “There are more bodies, but it’s a difficult recovery operation because of the terrain,” he added.

Officials have spent almost three months searching for the young bar-goers who vanished from the after-hours Heaven club at midday on May 26, just a block from Mexico’s leafy Paseo de Reforma, the city’s equivalent of the Champs-Elysees.

The case raised fears that Mexico’s drug wars could be infecting the capital, which has been largely spared, though local officials insisted it appeared to involve low-level gangs rather than drug cartels.

Surveillance cameras showed several cars pulling up and taking the victims away. A witness who escaped the kidnapping told authorities that a bar manager had ordered the music turned off, told patrons that authorities were about to raid the establishment and ordered those inside to leave.

The cameras showed most of the 12 getting into cars outside and being taken away.

They have not been heard from since.

The discovery of bodies in at least one grave was confirmed by an official with federal Attorney General’s Office, who also told The Associated Press that officials had not yet identified them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Ricardo Martinez, an attorney for relatives of the missing, told The Associated Press earlier that state and federal officials had informed him that 13 bodies had been found on a ranch east of Mexico City. He said officials suspected they belonged to those who disappeared from the bar.

Martinez said a suspect in the Heaven case led officials to two graves containing the bodies.

Martinez said he was told there are 13 bodies because the family of one of the disappeared never reported the person missing.

Prosecutors say the abductions are linked to a dispute between two rival drug gangs, one in Mexico City’s dangerous Tepito neighborhood, home to most of the abducted. The families of the disappeared, however, say they were not involved in drug trafficking.

So far, six people have been arrested in the Heaven case, including club owner Ernesto Espinosa Lobo, also known as “The Wolf,” who has been charged with kidnapping. Among the arrested are another bar owner, a driver and security guard.

One suspect is still a fugitive and another showed up dead a few weeks after the abduction.

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Associated Press writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this story.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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