CANCUN, Mexico – The 25 people taken from a call center in an unusual mass kidnapping in the Mexican Caribbean resort city of Cancun have been rescued following a huge police operation, officials said Wednesday.
“The 25 people deprived of their liberty have been rescued and are in good health. Our thanks to the state Attorney General’s Office and the agencies that participated. The Attorney General’s Office will provide details later,” Quintana Roo state Public Safety Secretary Jesus Alberto Capella said in a Twitter post.
Officials initially said at least 27 people had been kidnapped from a vacation telesales center in a residential area in Cancun, but they later revised the number of victims downward to 25.
The victims, who range in age from 18 to 25, were found at a house on Santiago de Compostela Avenue, just a few blocks from where they were kidnapped on Tuesday evening.
The victims and their relatives are at a building belonging to the Quintana Roo Attorney General’s Office in Cancun, where they are giving statements to investigators.
Marines, army troops, Federal Police officers, state police and members of the new National Guard all participated in the search for the kidnapping victims.
Based on the initial results of the investigation and eyewitness accounts, the AG’s office said a group of unidentified individuals burst into a house being used as a call center for marketing vacation packages and took away the workers in two SUVs.
Neighbors said the incident occurred around 6:00 pm Tuesday, but they did not report it to police in the city of Benito Juarez, where Cancun is located, until several hours later.
Eyewitness accounts differed from the official version of events, with those who watched the abduction saying that the subjects who took away the workers were armed with rifles, while officials said no firearms were used.
Reporters asked President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador about the kidnapping as soon as his daily press conference started.
“Looks like it’s a conflict between two groups. It’s too early to talk about a kidnapping in the sense of criminal gangs being involved, it’s just two groups that were involved in some activity and had a dispute,” Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, said.
If the incident is related to a business dispute, “this is not the method for dealing with differences,” AMLO said.
In Quintana Roo, according to official reports, at least five gangs have been fighting for control of drug sales, focusing mainly on Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
The rise in violence in the resort cities, where shootouts and gangland hits have occurred, has driven tourists away.