Mexican federal prosecutors take over border disappearances

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican federal prosecutors said Friday they are taking over the investigation into the disappearances of 28 people in the northern border city of Nuevo Laredo in recent months.

The 20 case files will be handled by the federal prosecutors’ office on forced disappearances, a term used to refer to abductions by security forces. The office said “there have been complaints alleging the participation of marines” in the disappearances.

Despite the uproar over the disappearances, President Enrique Pena Nieto praised Mexico’s navy and marines in a speech in another city in Tamaulipas, the same state where the disappearances occurred.

“We Mexicans know we can count on the professionalism, integrity and dedication of the navy,” he said. As in the United States, Mexican marines are part of the navy.

Earlier, the government pledged to send investigators to talk with the families of victims and gather any evidence they might have.

According to federal data, there have been more than 6,000 registered disappearances in Tamaulipas since 2006, more than any other state. Nuevo Laredo is a city plagued by extreme violence and dominated by drug traffickers who once belonged to the Zetas cartel.

Tensions were especially high in Nuevo Laredo in March, when some of the disappearances occurred. On March 25, marines were ambushed in the city three times by gunmen. One marine was killed and several wounded.

During the third clash, a helicopter was called in. A family’s car driving through a shootout was hit and a mother and two of her children were killed. The father and one boy were wounded, but survived. The navy initially denied responsibility, but after an expert concluded the fatal shots came from above, the service acknowledged its helicopter accidentally killed the civilians.