Mexico finds 49 migrants who had been kidnapped from bus

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s army said Thursday that troops have found 49 migrants, including 11 children, who were kidnapped from a bus earlier this week.

Defense Secretary Gen. Luis Cresencio Sandoval said 650 police and army troops were involved in the search for the migrants, who disappeared Tuesday.

The last 33 of the migrants were found early Thursday in an area where another mass kidnapping of migrants occurred in April. Sandoval said none of the abductors had been arrested, nor were two bus drivers found yet.

The migrants said a drug cartel abducted them when their bus stopped at a gas station in northern Mexico.

Sandoval did not identify the cartel responsible for the kidnapping, but acknowledged the Gulf cartel and others gangs operate in the area, where the northern states of San Luis Potosi and Nuevo Leon meet.

He also did not rule out the possibility that more migrants may be found, because there wasn't a clear accounting of how many were on the bus to start with.

Sandoval said the biggest concern was to find the bus drivers. In past cases, drivers have sometimes been beaten or killed by kidnappers. In other cases, drivers have been found to be in league with the abductors.

The migrants had been travelling north toward the U.S. border in a bus from the southern state of Chiapas on Tuesday when the vehicle, passengers and drivers were abducted.

Nine migrants were found Tuesday near a highway in the state of Nuevo Leon; 40 more were found wandering roads or taking shelter in houses between Wednesday and early Thursday.

Sandoval said the migrants included 19 Hondurans, 14 Haitians, seven Venezuelans, six Salvadorans, two Brazilians and one Cuban.

Bus company officials first reported the abduction on Tuesday, and told local media they had received demands for $1,500 apiece to release the migrants.

It was the second group of migrants to have disappeared in an area around the northern city of Matehuala.

That was the same area where about 20 people were abducted from vans in April. The April abduction led police to mount a massive search by air and land — and they found not only the 20 migrants they were looking for, but about 80 more migrants being held against their will, apparently by the same gang.

In early May, a government report said over 2,000 migrants were kidnapped by smuggling gangs and drug cartels in 2022. Mexico’s national immigration agency said authorities had freed 2,115 migrants of all nationalities kidnapped by gangs in 2022.

Gangs and cartels appear to be increasingly charging migrants fees to cross Mexico, and then kidnapping them for ransom. There has been a string of such mass migrant abductions in Mexico in recent months.