Eight military personnel have been arrested in Mexico for their involvement in a June incident that left 22 civilians dead, fueling suspicions that the supposed confrontation with alleged criminals may have actually been a massacre. Was it excessive force or an execution?
In a press release, Mexico's Secretary of National Defense (Sedena) revealed that on September 25 one officer and seven soldiers were handed over to a military court for their alleged participation in the June 30 incident, reported El Universal. All eight have been charged with breach of duty, while the officer also faces additional charges of crimes against military discipline and disobedience.
Mexico's Attorney General's Office and the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) are also carrying out separate investigations, reported Excelsior.
Sedena officials told El Universal that all 25 military personnel who were involved in the incident have been taken to a military base in Mexico City so they can testify.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although the incident remains shrouded in mystery, the recent arrests indicate that something went terribly wrong in the early hours of June 30. According to the official version of events, an army patrol stumbled across a group of armed men guarding a warehouse in the municipality of Tlatlaya in the state of Mexico (abbreviated as Edomex). The men allegedly fired on the soldiers, who shot back, killing one woman and 21 men without suffering any casualties. The soldiers also freed three women who were supposedly being held hostage at the warehouse.
Witnesses have cast this version of events into doubt, however, claiming that the individuals at the warehouse had surrendered before the army opened fire. One survivor -- one of the women who was found tied up in the warehouse -- said the soldiers altered the crime scene after the gun battle by moving several bodies.
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It remains unclear what really happened. One possibility is that the army patrol may have simply overreacted and used excessive force -- a tendency the army has previously been criticized for by human rights groups.
It is also possible that something more sinister took place, however. Mexican military officials have been accused in the past of ties to organized crime groups, making it conceivable that the army patrol in this case could have been working on behalf of a rival criminal group that paid them to kill the individuals at the warehouse. A similar incident occurred in Colombia in 2006, when members of the military that the Prosecutor General's Office initially claimed were working for drug traffickers massacred 10 police officers and one civilian informant conducting an anti-narcotics operation.