Honduran police say they have arrested five members of a kidnapping ring who are implicated in the abduction and murder of radio journalist Alfredo Villatoro.
Honduran police spokesman Fredy Rodriguez announced the arrests on May 27, telling local press that the suspects formed part of a kidnapping network known as the “Osorio Band.” Those arrested include Osman Fernando Osorio Arguijo (pictured), who police consider the head of the little-known organization; his brother Edgar Franciso Osorio Arguijo; Marvin Alonso Gomez and Leslie Xiomara Flores Bu. A 15-year-old girl was also detained in the operation, but her identity has not been made public.
Police say the suspects fired high-caliber weapons at officers during the arrest, but no one was harmed. Investigators have linked one of the guns seized to bullets found in Villatoro’s body, suggesting that the Osorio group was directly involved in the murder.
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These are not the first suspects to be named in the murder of Villatoro, who went missing on May 9 and was found dead six days later. Five other individuals have been arrested in connection to the case, including former police agent Miguel Angel Alvarez, who has been in prison since April 2011 for complicity in another homicide. Angel is believed to have called Villatoro’s family from jail to demand a ransom payment. The fact that Angel was still drawing a police salary while in prison is believed to have been a factor in the dismissal of Honduran police chief General Ricardo Ramirez del Cid last week.
Another former policeman, Gerson Basilio Godoy, was held in connection to Villatoro’s kidnapping, but was released despite evidence linking him to the scene of the crime.
While the authorities appear to be making unusually fast progress in this high-profile case, there is no end in sight to the larger trend of violence toward journalists in Honduras. Villatoro was the 23rd journalist to be killed in the country since 2010. According to Reporters Without Borders, the majority of these cases remain unsolved, contributing to Honduras’ ranking as the second most dangerous nation for the press in the hemisphere (after Mexico).
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