MEXICO CITY – The hijacking of a bus in San Fernando, a city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, was staged to recruit gunmen for a drug gang, the Reforma newspaper reported, citing accounts from eyewitnesses.
The bus, which was heading for the border with the United States, was stopped by armed men, who forced the young men off and let the rest of the passengers go, the newspaper reported in its Saturday edition.
The young men taken off the bus were led away by the criminals, Reforma said.
Several drug cartels, including Los Zetas, operate in Tamaulipas, a state on the border with Texas.
Some gangs have resorted to using unusual methods to recruit gunmen because of the high casualties in the war being waged by rival drug traffickers for control of territory, the federal government says.
Los Zetas, considered Mexico’s most violent drug cartel, is suspected of murdering 72 migrants last August at a ranch outside San Fernando after they refused to join the organization as hired guns.
The bodies of the 58 men and 14 women were discovered on Aug. 24 by marines after a shootout with gunmen that left a marine and three criminals dead.
The massacre victims came from Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil and India, but the majority were Hondurans.
Several mass graves containing another 72 bodies were found last week in La Joya, a rural community outside San Fernando, near where the bodies were discovered last summer.
The dangerous situation in the area has forced bus companies operating out of Reynosa, located across the border from McAllen, Texas, to suspend service on routes that pass through San Fernando, affecting thousands of people, the press reported.
Los Zetas has been blamed for the wave of violence in Tamaulipas and other parts of northern Mexico.
News of the mass graves’ discovery came out on Wednesday, the same day that thousands of people marched in cities across Mexico to call for an end to the wave of drug-related violence that has claimed the lives of more than 35,000 people since late 2006.
The marches were spearheaded by poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was recently murdered.