MEXICO CITY -- Authorities were exhuming bodies from a clandestine mass grave Thursday amid suspicion that the victims may be a group of young people who disappeared nearly three months ago from a bar in the heart of this capital.
The city's top prosecutor, Rodolfo Rios, said DNA tests were being conducted to confirm the identity of the corpses, which he said were badly decomposed.
By midday, at least seven bodies had been recovered from the grave, 25 miles east of downtown Mexico City, and the search for more continued. But work was slow because of the difficulty of the terrain, Rios told the ForoTV broadcaster.
Twelve men and women, ages 16 to 34, disappeared en masse from the Heaven bar in broad daylight on May 26 in the once-fashionable Zona Rosa district -- a block from busy Reforma Boulevard, the city’s main thoroughfare, and a short distance from
Security videos showed the young people getting into cars and being driven away. They were never seen again.
Authorities said they suspected the group was abducted as part of a battle among rival, small-bit drug dealers. Families insisted their loved ones were not involved in drugs, but all came from the notorious Tepito neighborhood, known for counterfeiting and other criminal enterprises.
The case riveted those in Mexico because it challenged the conventional wisdom that this sprawling capital has remained relatively untainted by the kinds of vicious violence sweeping much of the rest of the country.
It has also caused political trouble for Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, a former top prosecutor who has continued to insist that drug cartels do not operate in the city, even as the search for the 12 victims produced no results -- possibly until now.
Speaking at a hastily organized news conference, Rios said it would take at least 48 hours to identify the dead.
He said two additional people were arrested in connection with the case, but did not directly comment on reports that a suspect led investigators to the graves. The owner of the bar and four others had already been taken into custody.