MEXICO CITY — The Mexican army freed 165 migrants from an armed gang that had kidnapped them as they attempted to make their way to the United States, authorities said Thursday.
The migrants, mostly from Central America, were being held at gunpoint inside a small building in a part of Mexico's northern border state of Tamaulipas that is controlled by the notorious Zetas drug and smuggling cartel.
Twenty children and teens and two pregnant women were among the victims, Eduardo Sanchez, the government's security spokesman, said at a news conference.
He said the migrants told authorities they had been "held against their will" in filthy, overcrowded conditions for two or three weeks. Most had been intercepted when they attempted to reach the northern border and cross into the United States, and their captors telephoned their families to demand ransom money, Sanchez said.
One suspect, presumably the armed guard, was arrested.
Mexico's national human rights commission estimates about 10,000 migrants have gone missing each year since 2008 — kidnapped for ransom, shanghaied into forced labor for drug traffickers or killed. Many are killed when their families can't pay ransoms.