VERACRUZ, Mexico Six suspected criminals were killed by residents of a town in the highlands of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, Mexican authorities said on Friday.
The events took place in the municipality of Soledad Atzompa, located in the Sierra de Zongolica mountains of central Veracruz.
The preliminary investigation indicated that the victims might have been associates of former police officer Roberto de Los Santos de Jesus, alias El Bukanas, reputed leader of an outfit that runs fuel theft, kidnapping, extortion and truck-hijacking rackets in Veracruz and the neighboring state of Puebla.
The six men, traveling in several vehicles, tried to kidnap some rural teachers Thursday night, but were thwarted by municipal police, according to a report from the Veracruz Public Safety Secretariat.
The officers pursued the suspects and shots were fired before the police detained four of the men, but a group of as many as 800 area residents seized the men from the police.
Federal Police units responded to a call for help from their local counterparts, but residents kept the federal officers from entering the community.
The mob killed the four men and burned their bodies.
Early Friday, the vigilantes tracked down the other two suspects and burned them to death.
The Public Safety Secretariat announced that it will increase the state police presence in the Sierra de Zongolica, especially on the roads.
The independent National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has documented 862 cases of lynching in Mexico over the period from 1988 to 2017.
At least 25 people were killed by vigilantes in the first 11 month of last year, while 40 other attempted lynchings were stopped by authorities, according to the CNDH.
Experts see lynching as an expression of popular frustration with widespread impunity and a reflection of mistrust toward police and the judicial system.
More than 40 municipalities in Veracruz state, racked for years by violence blamed on internecine war among criminal groups, have been found to have illegal burial sites.
Activists discovered one of the largest clandestine mass graves in Latin America containing at least 288 sets of human remains near Veracruz city, home to a major port and a tourist destination.