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Five arrested over Mexico casino attack
Officials say suspected members of the Zetas drug gang have confessed to involvement in arson that killed 52 people.
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2011 22:28
Authorities say the Casino Royale was bombed because protection money had not been paid to drug gangs [Reuters]

Five suspected members of the Zetas drug gang have confessed to involvement in an arson attack on a Monterrey casino that killed 52 people, according to Mexican officials.

Rodrigo Medina, the governor of the border state of Nuevo Leon, announced the arrests just four days after the fire that devastated the Casino Royale, shocking a nation inured to brutal episodes of drug-related violence.

"All of them have confessed to belonging to the Zetas criminal group," Medina told a news conference.

Authorities had offered a $2.4 million reward for information leading to the arrests of those responsible for the arson attack.

Footage from security cameras showed a group of armed men arriving at the casino in cars, carrying cans of liquid. They can be seen rushing out and speeding away a few minutes later.

The prosecutor's office on Monday published a list of those who died in the  fire, including 42 women, as well as 10 injured, with three still in hospital.

Medina said the attack appeared to be linked to extortion of the casino and that there was evidence against those arrested.

President Felipe Calderon has condemned the "abhorrent and barbaric"  assault by "terrorists" and declared three days of mourning.

"It's very important to have detained the first five suspects," Calderon told Televisa channel on Monday. "All are linked to the crime, some more directly than others."

For more on Latin America's war on drug cartels

The attack was one of the deadliest episodes of violence since Calderon launched a crackdown on drug gangs in 2006.

On Sunday hundreds of people demonstrated in Monterrey, calling for an end to the violence and for local leaders, including Medina, to resign.

The government has sent hundreds of extra security forces to Nuevo Leon since the attack.

The industrial hub of Mexico, which until recently enjoyed a good reputation for security, has seen violence surge in the past 18 months, which authorities blame on a battle between the Zetas and their former employers the Gulf gang.

The Zetas were formed by deserters from Mexican special forces hired as hitmen for the Gulf cartel in the 1990s. They have recently become one of Mexico's most feared crime groups.

They are blamed in kidnappings, extortion and murders in Mexico and beyond, including the massacre of 72 Latin American migrants in August 2010 in northeast Mexico and the murder of a US federal agent in Mexico in February.

Mexican authorities claim more than 35,000 lives have been lost since President Calderon launched his offensive against the drug cartels.

Source:
Agencies
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