A crowd of people angry about recent kidnappings at a local school cornered federal agents taking photos of students leaving the building and burned the officers alive on Tuesday in Mexico City's southeastern outskirts, the latest example of mob justice in a country beset by corrupt police and high crimes rates.
Officials said two agents were dead, and one was being treated at a local hospital. Federal police director Jose Luis Figueroa told local television stations that the three agents, none wearing uniforms, had headed to the San Juan Ixtlayopan neighborhood in an unmarked car as part of an operation against drug dealing in the area.
The killings, filmed and broadcast on local television stations, were carried out by a crowd of people who cheered, chanted and shouted obscenities as they kicked and beat the plainclothes agents. The mob then dowsed two officers with gasoline and set them ablaze.
Police did not immediately arrest anyone, but were investigating.
The images were taped, then aired during TV Azteca's late-night newscast. At one point before the burning, the victims, blood streaming down their faces, spoke into the cameras, saying they were federal anti-terrorism agents who had been sent to the area on official business.
The agents were held by the mob for several hours before they were killed. Figueroa said heavy traffic and residents who blocked authorities from moving in until the two agents were dead kept police from responding.
A third federal agent was badly beaten, but eventually rescued by police and rushed to a nearby hospital.
Images taken from a helicopter showed dozens of residents milling around the burned, motionless bodies of the two agents, left in a street. Dozens of police in full riot gear moved in more than an hour later and dispersed the crowd.
The violence began in the early evening, when locals collared three men staking out a school.
The area had been tense since two youngsters had disappeared and were feared kidnapped from the school. Some in the crowd appeared to believe the agents were kidnappers, while others were simply angry that the alleged kidnappings hadn't been fully investigated by police.
When asked about complaints that authorities had failed to respond to demands to investigate the previous disappearances of two children in San Juan Ixtlayopan, Figueroa said a full schedule had prohibited federal authorities from concentrating on those cases.
Mexicans, frustrated by government corruption and soaring crime rates, have often taken justice into their own hands.
Earlier this month in another town on the capital's outskirts, police rescued a 28-year-old man local residents were threatening to beat to death for allegedly trying to steal a guitar and tape deck from a local community center.
And two years ago, an angry mob beat to death two of three youths who allegedly tried to rob a taxi driver in Mexico City.