MEXICO CITY (AP) – An army officer and seven soldiers are being detained in connection with the killing of 22 people in rural southern Mexico, an encounter that the military initially reported as a shootout but that a witness later described as a massacre.
The Mexican Defense Department said in a statement late Thursday that the eight were involved in the June 30 incident in San Pedro Limon, but did not specify how.
They were being held at a prison in Mexico City on charges of crimes against military discipline, disobedience and dereliction of duty.
The statement said the military charges are being pursued “independently of the investigations that civil authorities are carrying out under their jurisdiction”.
The federal Attorney General’s Office, which is conducting a criminal probe of the killings, had no immediate comment.
Raul Plascencia, president of Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, reserved comment, saying the Defense Department statement was not clear on the soldiers’ connection to the killings. Plascencia’s commission is also investigating the case. Recent reforms require that alleged military offenses against civilians be tried in civilian courts, but doesn’t bar the military justice system from pursuing its own charges.
Shortly after the confrontation, the army reported that 22 suspected criminals had been killed in a firefight with troops. Only one soldier was wounded.
The official version came into question when The Associated Press visited the scene days later and found no sign of a prolonged battle.
At least five spots inside the warehouse where the bloodshed occurred showed the same pattern: One or two closely placed bullet pocks, surrounded by a mass of spattered blood, giving the appearance that some of those killed had been standing against a wall and shot at about chest level.