Mexico says a drug cartel kidnapped 14 people from towns where angry residents killed 10 gunmen
MEXICO CITY (AP) — A drug cartel in central Mexico has kidnapped 14 local residents, including four children, in apparent retaliation for an uprising by angry farmers earlier this month that killed 10 cartel gunmen, officials said.
Farmers in the village of Texcaltitlan and a neighboring hamlet had apparently grown tired of cartel extortions. Armed only with sickles and hunting rifles, they chased down suspected gang members amid bursts of automatic gunfire on December 8, hacking, shooting and burning them. Four villagers also died in the clash.
Prosecutors said late Wednesday that the cartel then abducted 14 people, including four children between the ages of 1 1/2 and 14. The abducted adults include three policemen who were seized at a cartel roadblock, and a wounded villager the gang snatched from a hospital soon after the clash.
It was unclear if there was an intentional symbolic meaning in the fact that 14 gunmen were killed by the farmers in the clash and that 14 people were kidnapped.
José Luis Cervantes, the head prosecutor for the State of Mexico, located west of the country’s capital, Mexico City, said no ransom demand had been received. Previously, state officials had denied anyone was kidnapped, and said they were simply “missing.”
But residents of the village and a nearby hamlet said the Familia Michoacana drug cartel was demanding they hand over the leaders of the uprising, in exchange for releasing the kidnapped children and adults.
Cervantes said none of the villagers would face charges for the December 8 clash, because the confrontation had been classified as “legitimate self defense” because the farmers were defending their properties.
Gunmen from the Familia Michoacana cartel, which has long dominated the area, had showed up in the village earlier, demanding local farmers pay a per-acre (hectare) extortion fee from farmers.
The bloodshed occurred in the hamlet of Texcaltitlan, about 80 miles (130 kilometres) southwest of the capital. A video of the clash that emerged appears to show the gunmen wore military-style uniforms, some with helmets. Villagers apparently set their bodies and vehicles on fire.
Drug cartels in Mexico have been known to extort money from almost any legal or illegal business that they can, sometimes attacking or burning ranches, farms or stores that refuse to pay.
The Familia Michoacana is known for its brazen ambushes of police, as well as the the 2022 massacre of 20 townspeople in the town of Totolapan in neighbouring state of Guerrero. The attack killed the town’s mayor, his father and 18 other men.