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Mexico officials find mass grave east of capital

FILE - In this file phocomposite images taken from flyers made by relatives showing 10 least 12 young people who

FILE - In this file photo 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. Ricardo Martinez, an attorney for the families of at least 12 of the people who disappeared at the nightclub said on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 that officials discovered 13 bodies and are investigating whether they are those of the missing. Martinez says a suspect in the Heaven case led officials to two graves containing the bodies. From left to right, top row; Josue Piedra Moreno, Aaron Piedra Moreno, Rafael Rojas, Alan Omar Athiencia Barragon, Jennifer Robles Gonzalez. From left to right, bottom row; Jerzy Ortiz Ponce, Said Sanchez Garcia, Guadalupe Morales Vargas, Eulogio Foseca Arreola, Gabriela Tellez Zamudio. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

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Updated: August 22, 2013 2:54PM



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 seven badly decomposed corpses have been recovered so far from the grave in Tlalmanalco, Mexico City prosecutor Rodolfo Rios told reporters in a press conference. He said the victims can’t be identified so far based on clothing, nor can they tell the cause of death.

“We will look at DNA tests that have been taken ... to confirm or discard scientifically if the bodies found are the people who disappeared from the bar,” Rios said.

About 10 relatives of the missing marched into the press conference before it began to demand that they be informed first of what was going on. The families have criticized authorities for their lack of leads or explanation of what happened in the three months since their loved ones disappeared.

“We’re the ones affected, the rest of you after,” said Eugenia Ortiz, aunt of the Jerzy Ortiz, one of the missing.

Rio said there were more bodies and the work would continue in an area near Rancho La Mesa Ecological Park in the state of Mexico. He said the excavation is difficult because of terrain and weather, which has made the ground muddy. He also said two people who live in the area of the mass grave have been detained.

The young bar-goers 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.

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.

Surveillance cameras showed several cars pulling up to the bar and taking the victims away. A witness who escaped 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 12 have not been heard from since.

So far, six people have been arrested in the Heaven case, including club owner Ernesto Espinosa Lobo, 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.

The bizarre disappearance resonated across the city of 9 million because many had come to believe it was an oasis from Mexico’s cartels and drug violence.

A mass abduction of 12 mirrors crimes in drug-trafficking hot spots such as the western state of Michoacan, where 21 tourists disappeared, only to be found in a mass grave, or in Monterrey, where 17 kidnapped musicians were found dead in the bottom of a well.

City officials have insisted since the Heaven kidnapping that large drug cartels do not operate in the city. But the case has been a political liability, with local polls showing the public overwhelmingly opposed to how Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera has handled the case.

In another element of the case that is reminiscent of cartel warfare, one of the owners of the Heaven bar, Dax Rodriguez Ledezma, fled authorities only to turn up dead, his body dumped and burned in a rural area with that of his girlfriend and another friend.

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 had said a suspect in the Heaven case led officials to two graves containing the bodies, but Rios said nothing about that.

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

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Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this story from Mexico City. AP writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report.



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