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Steps Being Taken to Solve Juarez Murders, says Mexico's Attorney General - 2003-05-22

Mexico's attorney general, Rafael Macedo de la Concha, says important steps are being taken to solve the more than 300 murder cases involving young women whose bodies have been found in ravines and garbage dumps around the border city of Ciudad Juarez over the last decade. The attorney general also defended a federal probe into possible organ trafficking as a motive for the murders.

Mexico's top law enforcement official says the federal government is involved in an investigation into 14 of the murder cases in Juarez in which there is evidence of organized crime. The line of investigation concerns the possible trafficking of organs removed from the bodies of some victims. Citizens' groups and relatives of victims have expressed some skepticism about this idea, but Mr. Macedo de la Concha says there are indications that this may have happened in at least some of the cases.

He says one of the men in custody gave investigators detailed information about where some bodies were taken and that, in fact, bodies had been found in that place earlier. He says this person's declarations coincide with material facts resulting from police investigations.

The Mexican attorney general says he is working to reduce rivalries and friction between federal and state authorities in Juarez. Murder investigations in Mexico are usually carried out by state police, but after citizens' groups demanded more federal involvement, federal agents arrived in Juarez to investigate possible links to organized crime, which does fall under federal jurisdiction.

Human rights organizations and women's groups in Juarez have estimated the number of murders of young women in the past 10 years at over 300, but Mr. Macedo de la Concha says information provided to him by authorities in the state of Chihuahua indicate that there have been 258 murders.

Of those, he says 93 appear to have been sexually motivated killings. These are the cases that many investigators have suspected were the result of one or more serial killers. Some investigators have speculated that the murderer or murderers could be located across the Rio Grande river, in the city of El Paso, Texas, and that they cross the border to carry out the killings and then return.

Citizens' groups in Juarez have criticized local authorities for carrying out sloppy investigations and failing to do more to protect the young women of the border city. Recently, a Mexican television crew went to a site where some bodies have been discovered and found pieces of evidence, including what appeared to be small human bones, that had been left on the scene.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation office in El Paso has offered to assist in the investigations in uarez, but so far the FBI role has been limited to training Mexican police detectives at sessions conducted on the U.S. side of the border.