Police in Mexico have announced that three film students who went missing near the major city of Guadalajara five weeks ago were kidnapped, tortured, murdered, and dissolved in acid by members of a drug cartel.
The announcement came on Monday, marking a horrific end to a case that sparked passionate protest rallies by students and drew support from Mexico’s notable film industry celebrities.
The victims were identified as 25-year-old Salomon Aceves Gastelum and 20-year-olds Daniel Diaz and Marco Avalos, who went missing on March 19 as they returned from a film-shooting project outside Guadalajara, where the three attended the University of Audiovisual Media.
According to witness accounts, the victims were intercepted by a group of six to eight male subjects who forced them into another vehicle and drove away.
The confirmation of the killings came after the discovery by investigators of three barrels filled with acid at a house in the city of Tonala, where the students had engaged in filming.
Police did not identify a definitive motive.
Chief investigator Lizette Torres said the kidnappers were believed to belong to the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel, which she described as a powerful crime syndicate based in the western state where the victims attended school.
“There is no indication that (the students) themselves had any link with any cartel,” she said in a press briefing, adding, however, that investigators believed one of the victims had a relative involved in a rival cartel and suspected that the three may have been murdered in a revenge killing.
Torres said authorities would conduct DNA tests to determine whether the bodies of the victims were in fact dissolved in the acid.
It was not clear how a confirmation of the deaths was being issued before the DNA tests.
According to official estimates, there are currently more than 33,000 people missing in Mexico, a figure that has skyrocketed along with the nation’s murder rate as the Central American country struggles to rein in vicious violence linked to drug trade.
The cases of missing persons across Mexico often go unsolved.
The most prominent instance remains the disappearance and feared massacre of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero in 2014.
Journalist’s killer arrested
Meanwhile, Mexico’s Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete announced also on Monday that the alleged killer of a Mexican journalist killed last May has been taken into custody.
“A few moments ago, (police and prosecutors) detained the alleged perpetrator of the murder of journalist Javier Valdez, whose life was unfortunately taken last year in #Sinaloa,” Navarrete said in a Twitter message.
No further details were provided.
The 50-year-old Valdez, an award-winning journalist who covered Mexico’s powerful drug cartels, was shot dead in broad daylight outside the offices of Riodoce, the newspaper he co-founded in Culiacan, the capital of his native Sinaloa State.
Valdez was among at least the 11 journalists murdered in Mexico last year, according to Reporters without Borders.
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