MEXICO CITY (AFP) – The Mexican army has freed 165 migrants, mostly from Central America, who said they were kidnapped and held for several weeks by a criminal group in northern Mexico, authorities said Thursday.
The freed migrants, which included 20 who were minors, were seized in the northern state of Tamaulipas as they were trying to cross into the United States, a government statement said.
Acting on a tip, the army found the group being held at gunpoint in “precarious, unhealthy and overcrowded conditions” in a property in the municipality of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz on the border with the United States.
A man guarding the migrants was arrested during the raid and others were being sought, Eduardo Sanchez, an interior ministry official, said in the statement.
Among those freed were 77 Salvadorans, 50 Guatemalans, 23 Hondurans and an Indian national, Sanchez said.
The National Human Rights Commission estimated in a 2011 report that some 20,000 migrants are kidnapped every year in Mexico, where they are held for ransoms of more than $2,000 paid by family members in the United States.
In 2010, 72 migrants were found massacred in a ranch apparently owned by the Los Zetas drug cartel in Tamaulipas.