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Last Updated:  Sunday, 30 March, 2003, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
US-Mexico murder hotline set up
A march by more than 1,000 women in November 2002
A march was held last year to demand justice for the victims
Mexican and US police are setting up a cross-border hotline in an effort to solve the murders of more than 300 women over the past decade.

Most of the victims lived and worked in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso in Texas.

People phoning in to the hotline will be allowed to remain anonymous and will be eligible for a $50,000 reward if their information results in a case being solved.

The murders have long caused outrage but, despite several high-profile investigations and the arrest of several suspects, the killings have continued.

Drug-related killings and sex slavery are among the lines of investigation that have been pursued.

Police training

However, no motive has been definitively established.

Many of the victims were raped, strangled and mutilated, and their bodies were left in mass graves in the desert surrounding Ciudad Juarez.

An FBI expert who worked on the case in the 1990s has said some of the victims or perpetrators could be from Texas, Reuters news agency reported.

The hotline will be based at the El Paso Police Department and manned by police officers and FBI agents.

Important information will be passed to their Mexican counterparts to follow up.

An advisory committee is also being formed to include forensic and crime scene experts who will advise and train Mexican investigators.

"It is what needs to be done for both communities," said Jesus Jose Solis Silva from the state attorney-general's office in Ciudad Juarez.

He insisted that collaboration with the US authorities did not imply criticism of the Mexican police.

A poster with pictures of missing women
There have been numerous appeals for information over the years
But human rights organisations and women's groups contend that too little has been done to bring those behind the killings to justice.

They blame the failure to solve the crimes on corruption and incompetence among Mexican officers.

Last year, a coalition of women's groups from Mexico and the United States called for a joint taskforce to investigate the murders.

The victims were mostly young female assembly line workers in the "maquiladoras" - component factories owned by multi-national companies.

These firms were drawn to Ciudad Juarez by the tax-free status and cheap labour.

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