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Fed up vigilante kills 4 who had held up a busload of passengers

In this Jan. 19, 2015 photo, police officers prepare for an security operation in Ecatepec, a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City. Pope Francis will hold the largest public event of his visit to Mexico when he celebrates Mass on an outdoor esplanade in Ecatepec on Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

In this Jan. 19, 2015 photo, police officers prepare for an security operation in Ecatepec, a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City. Pope Francis will hold the largest public event of his visit to Mexico when he celebrates Mass on an outdoor esplanade in Ecatepec on Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)  (AP)

Apparently outraged by constant robberies aboard commuter buses on the outskirts of Mexico City, an armed passenger fatally shot four men who had just held up a busload of passengers, prosecutors said Monday.

The case described by prosecutors in Mexico State, which borders the capital, was the latest instance of vigilante-style killings in the crime-plagued suburban bus system. In August, local media reported that an armed passenger in another part of Mexico State shot at four thieves on a bus, killing two of them.

The latest case began when four bodies were found Monday dumped along a major highway connecting Mexico's capital with the nearby city of Toluca. Suspicion initially focused on criminal gangs that sometimes dump bodies of victims in the area, but prosecutors said a bus ticket in one of the dead men's pockets led them to the bus driver, who told them what happened.

"Investigations have established the four suspects were thieves, who minutes before they lost their lives had stolen the possessions of passengers aboard a bus," the state prosecutors' office said.

Just before dawn, the four got on the bus and threatened passengers with a gun, collecting booty that apparently included wallets, purses and cellphones, the office said.

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"When the suspects were about to get off the bus, a passenger stood up and shot at them, causing injuries that killed the four," it said.

Prosecutors said the armed passenger retrieved the backpack in which the thieves had stowed stolen items and returned them to passengers, then got off and fled.

In recent months, authorities have stationed police at bus stations and aboard buses, though that has done little to reassure the millions of residents who use the buses and crowded freeways each day to get to their jobs in Mexico City.

Mexico City's combination of heavy traffic and crime has led to several instances of motorists filming open banditry on expressways. Videos posted on social media sites show thieves approaching cars stopped in traffic, leaning in drivers' windows and apparently robbing them in broad daylight. City officials have stationed police temporarily on the sides of some expressways.

In another crime-related operation, 400 Mexico City police and inspectors and 40 tow trucks fanned out Monday and rounded up 100 gypsy cabs in an upscale district where a Spanish woman was abducted and killed in September after getting in an unregistered taxi. Maria Villar Galaz entered what she believed was a taxi in the Santa Fe neighborhood, then a man got in and immobilized her with a stun gun. She was held for ransom and her body was found two days later. Mexico City had made progress in making cabs safer since a wave of taxi crimes in the 1990s and 2000s, but gypsy cabs have since proliferated.

Also Monday, the government of the southern state of Guerrero said two men kidnapped and slain in Acapulco were military personnel. The state security spokesman said the two were off-duty and in civilian clothing when they were abducted last week. Their bodies were found in Acapulco on Sunday.

Spokesman Roberto Alvarez Heredia said the two were not stationed in Guerrero, but had been attending a training exercise at a base near Acapulco, the once-glamorous resort that has been the scene of lengthy drug gang violence.

And on Monday, federal prosecutors reported that a shootout between soldiers and suspected criminals in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan killed three people. Three others were wounded and soldiers detained three more suspects. Investigators recovered five assault rifles, a grenade and 10 shot-up vehicles at the scene.

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