MEXICO CITY — The criminal gang behind the slaying of 72 migrants late last month is suspected of killing those close to the case in an attempt to shut down further investigation.
Officials said late Tuesday that they thought two bodies recovered earlier in the week are of a prosecutor and a local investigator looking into the massacre, which was discovered on Aug. 24.
The bodies contained ID cards identifying them as state prosecutor Roberto Jaime Suarez Vazquez and Juan Carlos Suarez Sanchez, a local security official. Both had been were assigned to probe the massacre, the attorney general's office of Tamaulipas state said in a statement. Officials are conducting DNA tests to confirm the identities.
They're the latest, but not the only, people slain in the aftermath of the killings of the 58 men and 14 women, whose bound bodies were found slumped against a wall at a remote ranch in San Fernando, near the Texas border.
Also this week, police discovered the bodies of three of the alleged gunmen who carried out the massacre, a sign that the criminal gang behind the migrant abduction and murders may be systematically eliminating those who carried out the massacre and might be potential witnesses.
Alejandro Poire, a spokesman for President Felipe Calderon on security issues, said an anonymous caller helped authorities find the three bodies on a road in Abasola, a town in northeast Tamaulipas state, and were later identified by a survivor as among the gunmen in the massacre.
Poire said Wednesday that Mexican marines had arrested seven more members of the Los Zetas drug and crime syndicate in Tamaulipas thought to have been involved in the migrant killings. "These arrests will plainly help clarify what happened in San Fernando," he said.
The slayings of the 72 migrants — who arrived from Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — drew diplomatic protests from around the hemisphere, and the fallout continues.
El Salvador President Mauricio Funes is scheduled to arrive in Mexico City Friday for discussions about organized crime and the safety of migrants who cross Mexico on their way to the United States.
Word of the massacre first emerged after an Ecuadorean migrant who'd been shot through the neck walked through the night and notified Mexican marines. Since then, Honduras has confirmed that one of its citizens survived the massacre and is under the protection of Mexican authorities. El Salvador said a migrant from that country also survived and is in hiding in the U.S.
"The scale of the massacre is without precedent, although the kidnapping and killing of migrants happens frequently," said Rupert Knox, a London-based researcher on Mexico for Amnesty International.
Knox called on Mexico's national human rights commission to review the investigation by the State Attorney's Office to ensure that links between corrupt authorities and criminal gangs that extort migrants are fully investigated.
The 18-year-old Ecuadorean migrant who survived the slayings later told a television network that the gunmen said they were from Los Zetas, a notoriously violent drug and crime syndicate. The other confirmed survivors haven't spoken publicly.
"There's an awful lot that's not known" about the case, Knox said, referring to who in the criminal gang structure gave orders to slay the migrants. He added that the discovery of the three bodies of the alleged gunmen shouldn't preclude deeper investigation.
"We hope that that doesn't result in closure of the case," he said.
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