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Two missing priests murdered in Mexico

September 20, 2016

Two Mexican priests have been murdered after they were abducted from their church in the oil-rich state of Veracruz. The state has been the scene of bloody turf wars between drug gangs.

Mexiko Polizei entdeckt Leichen von Alejo Nabor Jimenez Juarez und Jose Alfredo Juarez de la Cruz
Image: Getty Images/AFP

Two Mexican priests were found murdered Monday, just hours after they were kidnapped from the low-income neighborhood where they served in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

Prosecutors said the two men were abducted from their church in the state's northern city of Poza Rica on Sunday. The priests were found with bullet wounds in the municipality of Papantla, close to where they were kidnapped.

A third man, a church assistant, managed to escape the kidnappers. He was found on Monday and put under police protection.

The Mexican Council of Bishops identified the slain priests as Alejo Nabor Jimenez Juarez and Jose Alfredo Juarez de la Cruz.

"We express our pain and indignation at the violence committed against them," the Bishops said in a statement.

Mexican soldiers close off a church after two priests are murdered.
Soldiers close off a church after two priests are murderedImage: Getty Images/AFP

"In these moments of pain and powerlessness in the face of the tragic violence we pray to the heavens for the eternal rest of our brothers and ask Our Lord for the conversion of their killers," the statement continued. "From the authorities, we expect an investigation clear up these acts and that those responsible be brought to justice."

Poza Rica and it surrounding environs has been the scene of drug-related gang violence for many years. But it's unclear why the Catholic clergymen were targeted.

Abductors motivation is unclear

Priests have been killed before in Mexico, but many of the killings have occurred in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero. What motivated the abductors to slay the priests remains unclear.

The Catholic Multimedia Center, which monitors attacks against religious leaders in the country, said the deaths of the two priests means that 14 priests, one seminarian and one sacristan have been killed since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012. The whereabouts of two other priests remains unknown.

Other kidnappings and killings

Authorities in the southern state of Guerrero reported that the head of the state police, Tomas Hernandez Martínez, was found dead Monday in his home in the resort city of Acapulco. The region has been hit by a wave of drug gang violence.

In another part of Guerrero, the state prosecutor's office said members of a drug cartel had freed six employees of a gold and silver mining plant who were kidnapped. They had spent several days captive in the hills before they were let go over the weekend. It was unclear whether any ransom was paid.

Several drug cartels operate in the mountains of Guerrero.

bik/jm (AP, AFP)