Four Journalists Kidnapped in Mexican Drug Violence

A military checkpoint about 40 miles away from the city of Durango, Mexico, last year. Rural areas have been the setting for much violence between rival cartels who want to control smuggling corridors. Thomas Bravo / Reuters-Landov

Earlier this week it emerged that prison officials in northern Mexico had allegedly let drug-gang assassins out repeatedly—and supplied them with weapons and trucks—to massacre 35 people. Now four journalists covering the story have been kidnapped.

The prison in Gómez Palacio, an industrial city in the north of Durango state, has, according to federal prosecutors, been the home base for a group of hit men who had used guards' assault rifles to mow down rivals and innocent civilians on organized releases. Clashes between the Gulf and Sinaloa drug cartels have been blamed for the violence. The prison director is under investigation, and federal police have taken over the prison.

Yesterday, according to the BBC, police discovered eight severed heads scattered around the state capital, also called Durango. And on Monday afternoon three television cameramen, at the prison to cover a protest by relatives of the inmates against the federal takeover, were kidnapped. Later, a local news reporter was also taken.

According to The New York Times, the gunmen who took the journalists demanded that videos they had made accusing the police of collaborating with another drugs gang, the Zetas, be aired on TV networks. The videos were aired on a midday newscast, but the men were not released, and remain in captivity.

According to Reuters, Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. At least 30 have been killed since 2006, when President Felipe Calderón escalated the drug wars by dispatching federal troops. The BBC reports that several others have been kidnapped. Dozens of civilians have died every day in the three-and-a-half-year war.

Today, 14 alleged members of the Zetas cartel stand trial in Guatemala, accused of a massacre. Authorities there say it is proof that the war is now spilling over Mexico's borders.