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Mexican police free two journalists seized by drug gangs

Mexican police free two ournalists seized by drug gangs
Freed from the drug mafia: Cameramen Alejandro Hernandez (R) and Javier Canales (L) are escorted by federal police after they arrive to the federal police headquarters to attend a news conference in Mexico City July 31, 2010.

Mexican police raided a drug gang safe house before dawn on Saturday and rescued two television journalists abducted by cartel members who demanded networks broadcast their messages, according to news reports.

Security Minister Genero Garcia Luna said cameramen Javier Canales and Alejandro Hernandez were being held in the northern state of Coahuila by members of the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's most powerful drug trade organisation.

The Sinaloa cartel is run by Mexico's top drug lord, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman. The two journalists were abducted on Monday after covering a prison scandal in the nearby state of Durango in which inmates are accused of being hired guns for a local cartel.

"They intimidated us all day and all night," Hernandez said at a news conference in Mexico City. "They hit us in the head with a board." Garcia Luna said the kidnappers fled as police closed in on the safe house on Saturday, and none were captured.

A third journalist abducted around the same time as Canales and Hernandez was freed on Thursday following negotiations with his captors, Garcia Luna said at the news conference.Attacks on the media have mounted as drug gangs seek to silence or intimidate journalists who report on the drug killings. "They were trying to have a way to force (networks) to broadcast messages," the minister said.

Across Mexico, a war between rival cartels for control of the multibillion-dollar drug trade has killed more than 26,000 people since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a war on drugs, worrying Washington and investors.

The rescue appears to conclude a bloody drama that began about two weeks ago when gunmen slaughtered 17 people at a party in the northern Mexican city of Torreon, according to the Wall Street Journal. The previous Sunday Sunday, federal police arrested Margarita Rojas, the director of a prison in the adjoining city of Gomez Palacio, in the state of Durango. Authorities alleged that Rojas had allowed prison guards to arm and leave the prison to carry out the killings, along with two others in the city. Thirty-five people were gunned down in the mass killings.

Local media reported earlier in the week that a fourth journalist in the area had been abducted around the same time, but it was not clear if this was true.

Since 2006, at least 30 journalists have been killed in Mexico, according to Mexican media. Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous countries for the media, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists says.

Date posted: August 2, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 179