• Mexico City probes possible mass kidnapping at bar

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    MEXICO CITY: Mexico City authorities are investigating whether 11 young people who disappeared from a bar in a popular downtown district were kidnapped by gunmen in broad daylight, officials said Thursday.

    The city’s top prosecutor, Rodolfo Rio, said authorities were “not ruling out any line of investigation” after the group vanished in the Zona Rosa neighborhood last Sunday near the US embassy and national monuments.

    The public security chief, Jesus Rodriguez, said it was “unclear whether or not it was a kidnapping,” and that authorities had detained people on drug-related offenses in the same area.

    An official in the prosecutor’s office, who requested anonymity, said a group of masked gunmen had showed up at the after-hours bar on Sunday morning.

    “At first, it appeared that their goal was not to take the youths but to rob them. However, they took them in the end,” the official said, adding that it was unclear if the incident occurred inside or outside the bar.

    Relatives of the group, whose ages range from 16 to 34, insist that their loved ones were taken away by gunmen.

    “It was definitely an armed group, we don’t know from where. They arrived at the bar and told them there would be a (police) operation,” Leticia Ponce, the mother of a 16-year-old boy, told MVS radio.

    She said the gunmen took them away in several cars and insisted that her son was not part of a street gang.

    “My son is a good boy. He loves to go dancing, he doesn’t take drugs,” Ponce said.

    The group came from the capital’s tough Tepito neighborhood, known for its street crime.

    The bar they went to stays open all night during the weekend and is near the city’s main avenue, Reforma, as well as the Angel of Independence monument in a neighborhood known for its nightlife.

    Several family members marched in the city and protested in front of the bar, holding signs with pictures of the missing and urging authorities to review footage from security cameras.

    According to Reforma newspaper, the group’s relatives said the bar managers told customers to leave at around 10 am on Sunday because a police operation was about to take place.

    Once in the street, armed men forced the young people to climb inside three sport-utility vehicles that appeared to have police insignia, the daily said. Four women were among the people who disappeared.

    Mexico has been plagued by kidnappings in recent years, with official figures showing 1,043 cases between January and October 2012, although experts say the numbers are likely much higher. At least 53 kidnappings were reported in the capital during that period.

    But such mass kidnappings are unheard of in Mexico City, which has been relatively spared from the drug-related violence that has left 70,000 people dead in the past six years.

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