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Mexico arrests many over slaying of 11 women

Twelve suspects, among them drug dealers and pimps, held over killings and forced prostitution in Ciudad Juarez.

Last Modified: 13 Jun 2013 06:00
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With more than 24,000 people reported missing over six years, activists help carry out basic investigation tasks [EPA]

Mexican prosecutors have arrested 12 people in connection with the killings of 11 young women whose skeletal remains were found near the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez early last year.

The suspects include alleged drug dealers, pimps and small store owners.

They allegedly belonged to a gang that forced young women into prostitution and drug dealing and then killed them when they were "no longer of use," the prosecutors' office for the northern state of Chihuahua, said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The 10 men and two women face charges of human trafficking and homicide.

Six were already in local jails for other offenses, and six other were detained early on Tuesday.

Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, was the scene of a series of killings of more than 100 women beginning in 1993.

Those possible serial or copy-cat killings, with similar victim profiles and killing methods, appeared to taper off by late 2004 or early 2005.

'Hooking' tactics

In those cases, the victims were usually young, slender women, often factory workers, who were abducted, often sexually abused and strangled before their bodies were dumped in the desert.

Few of those cases were ever properly investigated, but activists and mothers of the latest victims said on Wednesday that they had pressured investigators and provided information that led to the suspects.

One of the suspects ran a modelling agency, another a clothing store, a third a small grocery.

"These businesses were used by the gang as a 'hook' to offer young women jobs. Once they obtained the information they needed from the women's job applications, they used different techniques and other people to kidnap them or pressure them into forced prostitution, and the consumption and or sale of drugs," the state attorney general's office said.

"Once the women were no longer useful for their illegal activities, they decided to kill them and abandon their bodies" in the Juarez Valley, just east of Ciudad Juarez, it said.

Mothers help

Maria Garcia Reynosa, the mother of Jessica Leticia Pena Garcia, who was 15 when she disappeared in 2010, said she obtained video showing her daughter entering one of the suspects' businesses, a boot shop, looking for work.

Garcia Reynosa said that she had to do much of the investigative work herself, but that prosecutors finally listened to her and followed up the leads she provided on a hotel where she believed her daughter had been held.

Unfortunately, it was too late by then; Jessica Leticia had been killed months earlier.

"I gave them everything on a silver platter, and these dogs didn't do anything," she said of the original investigators. She said she had to battle to get key evidence introduced, and deal with detectives who did not take her leads seriously. Finally this year, the state created a small team of investigators devoted to focusing on the murders.

The difference from the earlier cases is that victims in Mexico are now much more empowered than in the 1990s, and prosecutors are more willing to listen.

Moreover, with more than 24,000 people reported missing over the last six years in Mexico, a strong tradition has emerged of relatives taking it on themselves to carry out basic investigation tasks that police can not or will not do.

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