Mon, Nov 29, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Mexico suspends officers amid mob killings probe

INVESTIGATION Four officers have been suspended for negligence after authorities failed to respond as two federal agents were burned to death last week


Four federal police officers have been suspended without pay while prosecutors investigate police negligence in the killing of two federal agents who were beaten, doused with paint thinner and burned to death by an angry crowd on Mexico City's southern outskirts, officials said Saturday.

The two victims and a third federal agent, who was severely injured, were taking pictures of an elementary school in San Juan Ixtayopan on Tuesday as part of an operation against drug-dealing when neighbors became alarmed the men might be kidnappers and attacked.

Both federal and city officials failed to get forces to the site, even though three hours passed between the time local news media reported problems and the time two agents were killed.

The four agents suspended on Friday include the immediate supervisor of the officers killed, the deputy director of counterterrorism intelligence and two lower-ranking police intelligence officials, according to federal police spokesman Jorge Hernandez.

Hundreds of federal officers have demanded the resignation of their agency's leaders, who they said had failed to give orders to rescue the policemen as they were being beaten and then burned alive.

The federal attorney general's office is investigating why authorities failed to respond effectively.

"This idea of lynching, of taking justice into the hands of the people cannot keep prospering in our country, we cannot allow it to continue," President Vicente Fox said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.

Explaining why federal authorities have taken over the investigation in to the mob killings in Mexico City's Tlahuac delegation, Fox drew comparisons to federal interventions against lawlessness in the northern Mexican cities of Ciudad Juarez, where hundreds of women have been killed over the past decade, and Matamoros, where the Mexican Army has been battling an organized unit of former comrades allied with drug traffickers.

"We have taken the decision to assume responsibility in a direct way in the case of Tlahuac, to put the case in the hands of the attorney general and assure, first, peace and tranquility in Tlahuac and, second, justice and punishment for those who committed these truly atrocious crimes that we all saw on television," the president said.

The Tuesday night vigilante attacks were taped by cameramen arriving on the scene and have been replayed for days nationwide, showing two agents with blood pouring down their faces as they beg their superiors for help.

Later, they are doused with paint thinner and set ablaze.

A third agent was rescued, but remains hospitalized suffering from heart and kidney problems triggered by a savage beating.

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