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Mexico Breaks Kidnapping Rings - 2002-02-21

Mexican federal agents have broken up three of the country's most violent kidnapping rings, arresting seven people within the past two weeks. The alleged kidnappers are accused of having cut off body parts to send to victims' families.

Authorities say the arrests were part of an extensive investigation in several Mexican states where the gangs operated. The worst of the gangs was known as "Los Borolos." Police say gang members cut off victims' ears and fingers and then sent them to family members who were slow in coming up with ransom money. The gang operated in 12 central and southern states.

Assistant Attorney General Gilberto Higuera noted the alleged kidnappers often used police uniforms to carry out their crimes. He said the gang's method of operation was to intercept business owners and prosperous farmers. He explained the gang members dressed in black uniforms with federal police insignias, including those of one agency, the Federal Judicial Police, that no longer exists.

He went on to say the gang kept victims in at least 11 hideaways in rural areas. The alleged leader of the gang, Abdel Diaz Lucas, is still at large and police have put out a nationwide alert, asking for the public's help in locating him. Television stations are showing his photo and providing telephone numbers which informants can use to call the federal police.

In recent years, kidnapping has become a major problem in Mexico. Firm figures on the number of kidnappings committed here are difficult to obtain since many victims and their families never report the crimes. In many cases, active police officers have been linked to the kidnapping gangs. International crime experts rank Mexico along with Colombia and Brazil as having the highest rates of kidnapping in the Americas.