MEXICO CITY (AP) — A busload of about 50 migrants were kidnapped by a gang in northern Mexico in the latest of a series of mass abductions, though nine were later found, Mexico's president and police said Wednesday.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said National Guard troops were searching for the migrants in an area around the northern city of Matehuala. The migrants had been travelling north toward the U.S. border in a bus from the southern state of Chiapas, when the vehicle, passengers and drivers were abducted.
“They have already found some,” López Obrador said at his morning news briefing. “Originally, there were reports of 50,” he said of the total number of victims, without specifying how many had been located. “We hope to rescue them,” he added.
Nine migrants — six men and three women — were found Tuesday near a highway in the state of Nuevo Leon, the state police department reported. Police did not say whether they had been freed or escaped. The migrants from Venezuela and Honduras were found wandering in a rural area, asking for help.
Bus company officials first reported the abduction on Tuesday, and told local media they had received demands for $1,500 apiece to release the migrants.
“Unfortunately, there are gangs that engage in kidnapping,” López Obrador said, noting it was the same area where about 20 people were abducted from vans in April. The April abduction led police to mount a massive search by air and land — and they found not only the 20 migrants they were looking for, but about 80 more migrants being held against their will, apparently by the same gang.
The area where the current search is underway is where the northern states of San Luis Potosi and Nuevo Leon meet, and where drug cartels have long been active.
Similar mass abductions have also occurred in the northern border state of Sonora.
In early May, a government report said over 2,000 migrants were kidnapped by smuggling gangs and drug cartels in 2022. Mexico’s national immigration agency said authorities had freed 2,115 migrants of all nationalities kidnapped by gangs in 2022.
Gangs and cartels appear to be increasingly charging migrants fees to cross Mexico, and then kidnapping them for ransom. There has been a string of such mass migrant abductions in Mexico in recent months.