MEXICO CITY, Mexico — It may seem hard to believe — 11 young people kidnapped in broad daylight in this bustling capital.
But that is exactly what distraught relatives believe happened last Sunday morning.
More than five days on, Mexico City police apparently have few viable leads in the suspected kidnapping of 11 teenagers and 20-somethings from an after-hours nightclub a few blocks from the US Embassy.
An unknown number of masked gunmen showed up at the bar in the Zona Rosa district and took the group away, an official in the Mexico City prosecutor’s office told Agence France-Presse on Thursday.
“At first, it appeared that their goal was not to take the youths but to rob them. However, they took them in the end,” the unidentified official said.
Witnesses said men wearing police uniforms took the seven men and four women Sunday morning from the Heaven After, an unlicensed bar, tying their hands with plastic handcuffs before leading them away.
Outside the bar, the youths were forced into three vehicles that appeared to have police markings, Mexican newspaper Mural reported.
Local and federal police agencies have denied their agents were involved.
Nearly a dozen surveillance cameras on the surrounding streets failed to record the daylight operation, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera says.
Investigators suggest the disappearances are tied to gangland rivalries.
The missing all hail from Tepito, a central Mexico City neighborhood that's been the capital's organized crime hub for generations. Two of those taken have been identified as sons of jailed Tepito gangsters by the Mexico City media, citing investigators.
Children of gang bosses?
Press reports say Jerzy Ortiz, 16, is the youngest son of Jorge “The Tank” Ortiz, who is serving time for retail drug trafficking. They identify Said Sanchez, 19, as a son of Alejandro “Daddy” Sanchez, another known Tepito gang boss jailed for drug trafficking.
The kidnappings — only made known Thursday when protesting relatives publicly demanded police find the missing — came two days after the killing of a suspected retail drug trafficker on a leafy street in La Condesa neighborhood, Mexico City's trendiest nightlife district.
Mexican media have linked the two incidents, suggesting a brewing crime war in the capital.
A warren of narrow streets crowded with market stalls selling electronics, fabrics, guns, drugs and other contraband, Tepito is famed as both a smugglers den and a surefire place for clueless outsiders to be assaulted, robbed or worse.
Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of the US civil rights activist Macolm X, was beaten to death May 9 at a clip-joint nightclub a few blocks from Tepito. The neighborhood is home to a primary temple to the Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, a folk deity venerated by gangsters, policemen and the desperate across central and northern Mexico.
In recent years, Chinese and Korean merchants reportedly have gained an important share of Tepito's illicit economy as smuggled goods from Asia became more popular. A Korean merchant was gunned down on a Tepito street earlier this spring.
Mexican federal officials late last year compiled a list of some 25,000 people reported missing during more than six years of the gangland violence. But Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio last week told GlobalPost and other foreign media that the actual number of the disappeared is a fraction of that, without providing numbers.
The head of Mexico's National Human Rights Commision said early this week that some 2,800 people have been "forcefully disappeared" — meaning at the hands of local, state or federal security forces.
The supposed kidnappings have jolted Mexico's capital. Despite bouts of crime and kidnappings, this sprawling metropolis remained a relative oasis from the gangland carnage that's swept much of the country in the past seven years.
Crime lords have been found living in the city's wealthier neighborhoods and their gunmen have slaughtered one another in the working class suburbs ringing the capital. But there have been few gang-related killings Mexico City itself.
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