Cops Among 17 Arrested in Probe of Christian Youth Group Attack in Mexico
New reports indicate that officials have arrested a total of 17 people suspected to have been involved in the attack at a Christian youth camp that occurred on the eastern outskirts of Mexico City on Friday, July 13.
Mexico City police announced Thursday that the 17 suspects, which include two women, two police officers, and a former soldier, have been taken into custody.
The attack occurred when 90 members of a Christian youth group, affiliated with Chains of the Holy Trinity church and staying at Colibri ecological park, were roused from their tents by gunfire.
A gang of robbers entered the tented area, and held all 90 youths at gunpoint while they stole their belongings.
In a rampage that allegedly lasted hours, five girls were raped, while another three were sexually molested, Mexico State Gov. Eruviel Avila told BBC News.
The robbers also beat some of the youth as they remained at gunpoint.
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Gov. Avila revealed that six of those arrested for the ransacking confessed to the police, as seen on jail surveillance video. Four other suspected members of the robber gang remain at large, according to the governor.
According to the BBC, police found items stolen from the campsite in the homes of the arrested suspects near Mexico City.
Reports indicate that poor cell phone service and heavily wooded areas prevented the youth camp leaders from immediately sounding the alarm while the violence continued at the base of the Popocatepetl volcano near the town of Ixtapaluca.
A similar attack took place in February near the same site when a group of 120 hikers were attacked by armed robbers. Two females in the group were raped.
Although such attacks conjure up thoughts of drug-related gang activity, prosecutors have speculated that these attacks were carried out by locals and not cartels.
"The organized criminals, they go after other targets [with more money]" Gerardo Catano, who leads a mountain rescue team in the Tlamanalco township, located near the volcano, told The Associated Press.
"They are probably people from the [mountain] communities themselves," he said, adding that hiking participation has dropped by 90 percent since the most recent attack.
Catano claims that he has been robbed three times while hiking the trails, and he believes the gangs are locals, as they usually use pistols and shotguns, as opposed to the machine guns used by drug cartel members.
Mexico's equivalent to the Boy Scouts, the Scouts Association of Mexico, has advised all scouts to hike in large groups and avoid 11 designated wooded areas near the Popocatepetl volcano.
Local authorities have told media outlets that they are pursuing the investigation further and looking into increased police patrol of the mountain area.