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The BBC's Peter Greste
"It's still too early to say how they died"
 real 28k

The BBC's Peter Greste reports
"Hundreds of people have vanished, so many they're known as the disappeared"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 00:03 GMT
Mexican body count rises
Forensic experts Forensic experts have yet to identify any of the bodies

Investigators working near the US-Mexico border say they have located another three bodies, bringing the total discovered to five as they search a series of sites where up to 100 victims of local drug traffickers are believed to be buried.

Forensic experts from Mexico and the United States, working on Wednesday at the La Campana ranch some 16 km (10 miles) southwest of the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, found the bodies "one on top of the other".

"At this moment we have indications that we have the remains of five persons," said Jose Larrieta Carrasco, head of the organised crime unit for Mexico's attorney general's office.

Surrounded by heavily-armed Mexican federal police officers wearing black hoods to protect thier identity, Larrieta added: "We're trying to determine if there are more."

As many as 200 people have vanished in the area over the past decade, including 22 Americans.

Joint operation

The FBI, US forensic scientists and the Mexican army and police launched a joint investigation on Monday, reportedly after a tip-off from a former Mexican police officer who worked for the drug traffickers while he was in uniform.

Troops are guarding the sites on two farms just outside the Mexican border city of Cuidad Juarez.

Mexican police Mexican police have sealed of the ranches
The FBI has sent some 200 agents and forensic experts, at Mexico's request, to work alongside 600 Mexicans assigned to the investigation. The investigators have been using heavy earth-moving vehicles in their search.

Truck-loads of equipment, including a mobile laboratory, have been brought in to help recover the bodies.

Friends and family of missing people have congregated near the site, hoping to discover the fate of their relatives.

Mostly local victims

On Mexican television, Mexican Attorney-General Jorge Madrazo stressed that officials do not believe the bodies of any US Drug Enforcement Administration or FBI agents are among those that might be found.

But he did not rule out the possibility that there could be agents of the Mexican federal judicial police buried there.

man This man believes one of his relatives is buried at the ranch
"We are going to see, because yes, there are some reports of the disappearance of those agents", he said.

Most of the victims are believed to have been local residents, many of whom were last seen in the company of police officers.

In Ciudad Juarez, they are simply known as "the disappeared".

Cartel HQ

Attorney-General Madrazo said on Tuesday that searches at four separate sites on two ranches could solve the missing-person cases of more than 100 people.

"Our working hypothesis, and it is still a hypothesis, is that we are dealing with executions by the Juarez Cartel."

For years, Ciudad Juarez has been known as the headquarters of the Juarez Cartel, a gang of drug traffickers formerly led by Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

He was the country's most infamous cocaine trafficker before his death in 1997 following plastic surgery.

The cartel is believed to have ruthlessly abducted and executed anyone thought to be an informer. Local police in the pay of the drug lords are thought to have been involved in the murders.

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See also:
30 Nov 99 |  Americas
Remains found in Mexican 'mass graves'
15 Feb 99 |  Americas
US and Mexico: A porous frontier
16 Feb 99 |  Americas
Mexico drug pact for Clinton
30 Oct 99 |  Americas
Cocaine haul turns to flour
18 Sep 98 |  Americas
US success in war against drugs

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