Police found 12 bodies inside a well in northern Mexico, some of them members of a band abducted last week by an armed group, a spokesman for the state of Nuevo Leon, Jorge Domene, said on Monday.
The Colombian-style music group was playing at a ranch when at least 10 gunmen entered the warehouse where the private party was being held and forced them and several crew members into waiting vehicles, a survivor of the attack told authorities.
Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Domene said the survivor, a member of the Kombo Kolombia band, told police the 18 were blindfolded and driven on dirt roads until they stopped. He then heard the assailants ask fellow band members if they belonged to a drug cartel, shots were fired and the bodies were dumped into a well.
Domene said the survivor, who is being protected by soldiers, was able to reach a nearby ranch and get help. He would not give details on how the man was able to escape. The man later led authorities to the well where searchers found several bodies, Domene said.
Domene said four bodies first pulled from the well on Sunday have been identified by their relatives, including a Colombian citizen who played the keyboard. Three of them were wearing matching T-shirts with the name of the band.
“The search will continue ... to see how many more bodies may be hidden there,” he said.
By Monday afternoon, searchers had pulled 12 bodies from the well along a dirt road in the town of Mina, about 225km from Laredo, Texas, Domene said.
SIGNS OF TORTURE
The bodies recovered showed signs of torture, said a forensic official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the case.
It was hard to determine how many more bodies were in the water, he said.
Authorities initially said 16 members of the band and four crew members were reported missing early on Friday after playing at a private party attended by about 50 people and held at a ranch called La Carreta, or The Wagon, in the town of Hidalgo north of Monterrey.
However, Domene said on Monday that 18 band members had gone missing. He did not say how many were crew members and how many were musicians.
The party guests are being questioned and police have yet to determine a motive in the killings, Domene said.
The state of Nuevo Leon, on the border with Texas, has been the scene of a turf battle between members of the Gulf drug cartel and the Zetas drug gang. The Zetas were hit men for the Gulf cartel until they split in 2010, unleashing their bloody war.
People living near the ranch in Hidalgo reported hearing gunshots at about 4am on Friday, followed by the sound of vehicles speeding away, said a separate source with the Nuevo Leon State Investigative Agency. He also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by the news media.
The officials added that gunfire is common in the area and said investigators found spent bullets nearby.
Relatives filed a missing persons report on Friday after losing cellular phone contact with the musicians. When they went to the ranch to investigate, they found the band members’ vehicles still parked outside.
Kombo Kolombia played a Colombian style of music known as vallenato, which is popular in working class neighborhoods in the city of Monterrey and other parts of Nuevo Leon state. Most of the group’s musicians were from the area, except for the keyboard player, a Colombian with Mexican residency, Domene said.
It was Mexico’s largest single kidnapping since 20 tourists from the western state of Michoacan were abducted in Acapulco in 2010. Most of their bodies were found a month later in a mass grave. Authorities said the tourists were mistaken for cartel members.
Members of other musical groups have been murdered in Mexico in recent years, usually groups that perform narcocorridos that celebrate the exploits of drug traffickers. However, Kombo Kolombia did not play that type of music.