Suspected drug cartel gunmen abducted two off-duty female soldiers at gunpoint for several hours Thursday, the Mexican army said.
The commander of the army headquarters in the Pacific coast resort of Puerto Vallarta said the two women were vacationing there when they were kidnapped just after midnight.
“They were kidnapped for the simple reason that they belonged to the army,” Gen. Vicente Pérez López said. “They had nothing to do with any operational issues.”
The army said in a statement that the two were freed later Thursday, after about 15 hours in captivity. The statement did not say how the release took place.
The two had rented a property in Puerto Vallarta and “were enjoying the beach … on vacation,” Pérez López said, calling it “a cowardly act.”
He said the kidnappers were believed to be members of a drug gang “because of the way in which they operated.”
He said a search was launched by the army, navy and National Guard, including the use of helicopters.
Pérez López identified the two as a sergeant posted as an office worker and a second lieutenant who teaches at an army school. The army employs very few civilians or outside contractors, and it staffs most services – from hospitals and schools to weapons factories – with its own personnel.
Puerto Vallarta is dominated by the violent Jalisco drug cartel, which has often openly clashed with the military. The Department of Justice considers the Jalisco cartel to be “one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world.”
Earlier this month, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador confirmed thattrained by U.S. authorities to fight drug cartels because it was infiltrated by criminals.
Across the country, more than 340,000 people have been killedsince the government deployed the army to fight drug cartels in 2006.
Last month, Lopez Obrador accused popular television shows of glamorizing the violent drug trade. He criticized TV series on platforms such as Netflix, saying they presented a rose-colored version of the lifestyles of drug traffickers.
The shows feature “gangs of drug traffickers, with actors, men, beautiful women, property, the latest cars, jewelry, designer clothes, power,” he told reporters.
“Excessive use of force” cited in university student’s death
In another incident Wednesday, a member of the quasi-military National Guard opened fire on a vehicle, killing one university student and wounding another.
The shooting occurred in the violence-plagued state of Guanajuato, where authorities have been fighting drug cartels and thefts from government-owned fuel pipelines for years.
The National Guard is controlled by – and largely recruited from – the army, though it is supposed to be a civilian force.
The Guard said in a statement that one of its patrols was conducting a routine mission to protect pipelines, when they happened upon two vehicles that sought to drive off.
The force said one guard member “unilaterally” got out of his vehicle and fired on one of the vehicles, killing a male student and severely wounding a female student. It said the guard member had been turned over to civilian prosecutors.
Guanajuato Gov. Diego Sinhue wrote in his social media accounts that he condemned the shooting and called it an “excessive use of force.”
“We will accompany and give full support to their families so that the competent authorities clarify what happened and justice is done,” Sinhue wrote.