Mexican mass graves near U.S. border thought to hold drug traffickers' victims

U.S. officers join dig, reported to be sparked by FBI informant


Mexican authorities, working with a team from the FBI, began yesterday to excavate sites near the U.S. border that they believe might hold the bodies of scores of Mexicans and Americans killed over the past several years as a part of a campaign by drug traffickers to eliminate their enemies.

The search for bodies, an American law enforcement official said, was spurred by a tip from an informant recruited by the FBI who acknowledged complicity in several murders and identified the locations of at least two mass graves on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican city just over the border from El Paso, Texas.

The informant, who officials said has passed a polygraph, or lie detector exam, said as many as 200 people might be buried in several graves.

American officials said the digging began yesterday and that, as yet, no complete human remains had been recovered.

In recent years, prosecutions of Mexican drug traffickers along the Texas border have been hindered by the disappearance of witnesses and informants, some of whom have been kidnapped from American soil. Dozens of people have disappeared from the Juarez area without explanation.

American officials said some of these people had been informants for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI.

Others had no apparent connection to the drug trade.

Prodded by citizen groups in Juarez and other parts of Chihuahua state, the Mexican authorities carried out a lengthy inquiry into the disappearances, but had little success.

In January, the Mexican attorney general, Jorge Madrazo Cuellar, acknowledged that drug traffickers had infiltrated a police agent into the special unit that was investigating the disappearances.

The informer who described the killings to the FBI said some were carried out by Mexican federal policemen working as hired assassins for the drug gangs that operate from Juarez, one of the main gateways for cocaine and other drugs being shipped north through Mexico into the United States.

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