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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 14:13 GMT
Cavers not seeking uranium - MoD
Caver in van
The cavers were taken to a detention centre for questioning
The six British cavers who are being held in Mexico were not looking for radioactive materials, the Ministry of Defence has insisted in a statement.

Mexican authorities arrested the men, who had to be rescued from a flooded cavern near Cuetzalan on Thursday, on suspicion of entering Mexico illegally.

Prosecutors had also said they were looking into media reports the men were searching for uranium.

The MoD said the men were only on a training exercise.

Possible visa breaches

"Any suggestions they were mining or exploring for uranium is incorrect," an MoD spokesman said.

The men were members of a 13-strong team from the Combined Services Caving Association (CSCA), and four are serving in the British military.

They have been named as Sergeant John Roe of the RAF, Navy warrant officer Charles Milton and Sergeant Chris Mitchell and Captain Toby Hamnett from the Army.

The other two were retired Army Major Jonathan Sims and civilian caver Simon Cornhill.

They were due to fly back to Britain at 0240 GMT, but missed that flight because of their continuing detention.

The men face a further possible 48 hours detention while the authorities look at possible visa breaches.

Police will then hand over the case to federal prosecutors.

They will decide whether to take them to a prison, a holding centre, or leave them in a migration detention centre in eastern Mexico City.

We need more clarification about what this was about
President Vicente Fox

They could be either charged or turned over to immigration authorities who will decide whether they were in breach of their tourist visas.

The group's visas covered them for cave exploration, but not for mapping the caves, which requires another form of visa as it is classified as "scientific activity".

If they are found guilty of these offences they could be deported, face 18 months in jail, fined up to 180 or prohibited from returning to Mexico for a specified period.

Mexico's federal organised crime prosecutor Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, said on Friday: "We have no evidence, at this moment, of any illegal activity.

"We can't react in a paranoid or aggressive manner."

Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos
The prosecutor said the inquiry was based on media reports

But Mexico's President Vicente Fox has said he is unhappy with explanations for their activity in the caves, where they became trapped by floods.

Mr Fox said Britain had not clarified answers to questions about the activities of the cavers.

"We received a reply to our request from Britain, but it is frankly unsatisfactory, we need more clarification about what this was about," he told a news conference in Nicaragua.

The CSCA said in a statement on its website on Friday said the trip had been planned for three years.

"The CSCA are helping to explore a major cave system, involving cavers from Mexico, Spain, America and the UK, all of whom are helping the Mexicans develop a better understanding of one of the biggest cave systems in the world.

"It is not uncommon for the CSCA to work alongside civilian cavers on major projects, such as this one."

The cave exploration, which began last Monday, was due to last 36 hours but the group got stuck after heavy rain raised the water level in the cave.

Rescued cavers
The cavers were not thought to have been in danger

The men declined local offers of rescue, instead preferring to wait for two specialist British divers who flew to Mexico to escort them out.

None had suffered any injuries and had supplies of food and communication equipment to maintain contact with their colleagues outside the cave.

The BBC's David Willis
"The cavers' problems are mounting"

British cavers rescued in Mexico
25 Mar 04  |  Americas
Cavers embarrassed by rescue
26 Mar 04  |  Americas
Trapped cavers reject criticism
25 Mar 04  |  Americas
UK cavers prompt diplomatic row
25 Mar 04  |  Americas
Britons trapped in Mexican cave
23 Mar 04  |  Americas

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