Searchers looking for 7 kidnapped youths in Mexico find 6 bodies, 1 wounded survivor

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A search for seven kidnapped youths in the north-central Mexico state of Zacatecas appeared to come to a tragic end Wednesday when searchers found six bodies and one survivor in a remote area.

State prosecutors said the surviving young man was found with serious head wounds. His condition was listed as stable. They said the bodies of six young men were found nearby, but that investigators had not yet confirmed they were the youths abducted from a farm Sunday.

Two suspects were arrested in Villanueva and “there is a high probability that they are linked” to the crime, senior Zacatecas state official Rodrigo Reyes told the press.

The bodies will have to be removed from the roadless site and brought to the state capital for identification.

Their relatives had carried out protests earlier this week in the violence-plagued state to demand authorities find them.

Prosecutors said earlier that the kidnapping was not believed to be connected to forced recruitment by criminal groups.

It was the latest tragic outcome to mass abductions of young people this year.

In August, a gruesome video circulated on social media recorded the last moments of five young men kidnapped in the neighboring state of Jalisco.

In the video, a pair of bound, inert bodies are seen lying in the foreground. A youth seen bludgeoning and apparently decapitating another victim appears to be himself the fourth member of the kidnapped group of friends.

At the height of Mexico’s drug cartel brutality in the 2010s, gangs sometimes forced kidnap victims to kill each other. In 2010, one Mexican cartel abducted men from passenger buses and forced them to fight each other to death with sledgehammers.

In May, as many as eight young workers were killed in Jalisco after they apparently tried to quit jobs at a call center operated by a violent drug cartel that targeted Americans in a real estate scam.

Mexico has recorded more than 420,000 murders since the launch of a controversial military antidrug offensive in 2006.

It has also registered more than 110,000 disappearances since 1962, most attributed to criminal organizations.

Cartel activity and violence in Zacatecas

Zacatecas, which has one of the highest per-capita homicide rates in Mexico, is a key transit point for drugs, especially the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl, moving north to the U.S. border. 

Zacatecas has been the scene of bloody turf battles between the Jalisco and Sinaloa drug cartels. The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration told CBS News that the two cartels are behind the influx of fentanyl in the U.S. that’s killing tens of thousands of Americans.  

The U.S. State Department includes Zacatecas on its “do not travel” advisory for Americans due to ongoing crime and abductions.

“Violent crime, extortion, and gang activity are widespread in Zacatecas state,” the advisory says.

Authorities in Zacatecas confirmed that a U.S. resident was among four people killed in the state around Christmas time last year.

In April 2022, the bodies of five men and one woman were found dumped on a roadside in Zacatecas.

In January 2022 in Zacatecas, the bodies of eight men and two women were found crammed into a pickup truck left before dawn near a Christmas tree in the main plaza of the state capital. 

AFP contributed to this report.

Source: CBS News