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3 Mexican soldiers to be charged with homicide in killings of 22

State authorities seal off a warehouse in Tlatlaya, Mexico, that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and gang members.
State authorities seal off a warehouse in Tlatlaya, Mexico, that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and gang members.
(Rebecca Blackwell / Associated Press)

Three Mexican soldiers will be charged with homicide in the killings of 22 members of an armed gang after evidence that the military men finished off the gang members after they stopped firing, Mexico’s attorney general announced Tuesday.

The army had initially portrayed the killings in Tlatlaya, Mexico, on June 30 as part of a fierce gun battle. But investigations by journalists, starting with the Associated Press, revealed no signs of an extended fight and, instead, showed indications that the gunmen might have been killed one by one.

A woman who said she was a witness later told journalists she saw surrendering and wounded gang members being “executed,” among them her 15-year-old daughter.

With questions raised over the army’s version of the incident and the apparent subsequent cover-up, the government undertook an investigation. An army lieutenant and seven soldiers were arrested last week.

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Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam, in a briefing with reporters Tuesday evening, said three of the soldiers entered a warehouse where the gang members had opened fire but had stopped shooting. There the soldiers shot the gang members “without any justification.”

“We conducted a series of investigations and interrogations [and] it is clear to us that … there was a clash between military personnel and a group of criminals … that lasted about 10 minutes,” Murillo Karam said. “However, when the gunfire stopped, three military elements entered the warehouse … and carried out a new sequence of shots that is without any justification.”

The three will be charged with homicide, Murillo Karam said. The other army personnel may yet face military trial for disobedience and disciplinary infractions, he said.

At first, no one in the government at the state or federal level had questioned the version of events provided by the army, which raised suspicions for some observers because there were 22 dead on one side, and one wounded soldier on the other.

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It is the second time in two days that government officials have acknowledged that soldiers or police may have improperly used force. On Monday, prosecutors in Guerrero state announced the arrest and future prosecution of 22 municipal police in connection with the killing of six students and others. Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre said forensic tests have implicated two of the police officers in some of the shooting deaths.

The Guerrero violence over the weekend also left more than 50 students missing. The whereabouts of 14 have been established since then.

The police are also suspected of opening fire on a busload of soccer players during the same string of attacks, killing one 15-year-old. The mayor of Iguala, the Guerrero town where the shootings took place, was forced to take a leave of absence Tuesday.

Sanchez is a special correspondent.

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