Police recover 7 bodies from mines used by drug gangs as dumping grounds in central Mexico

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — Authorities said Monday that seven bodies were pulled from mine shafts in central Mexico, while mounting drug violence forced U.S. diplomats to pull their kids out of a school in the northern city of Monterrey.

Police in the central state of Hidalgo recovered seven bodies from two mines that were being used as clandestine graveyards by drug gangs, state Assistant Attorney General Carmen Archundia said.

Archundia said investigators were led to the mines by a group of suspects, including three police officers, arrested last week. The bodies were removed over the weekend from a mine in the city of Pachuca, the capital of Hidalgo state, and from a mine in the nearby town of Mineral del Chico.

In May, authorities discovered 55 bodies from an abandoned mine near Taxco, a colonial-era city south of Mexico City that is popular with international tourists.

The U.S. consulate in Monterrey said Monday that it was temporarily pulling diplomats' children out of a school where a shooting outside killed two security guards for a private company.

The battle outside the American School Foundation of Monterrey, a private school attended by many Americans, also wounded three other guards for the FEMSA bottling company.

"The U.S. Ambassador has urged U.S. personnel at the consulate to keep their children at home while we assess the risks and what measures can be taken to reduce it," the consulate said in a statement.

U.S. consular employees in Monterrey — like others in conflict-ridden parts of northern Mexico — have already been authorized to send their families out of Mexico, with some U.S. government assistance. U.S. diplomats can be ordered to evacuate their families, a step that has not yet been taken in Mexico.

The consulate did not say what additional measures might be taken, saying only that "we have engaged security officials at a national level on measures to address the overall security of the Monterrey area."

The consulate said the gunbattle "may have been the result of an attempted kidnapping targeting relatives of a business executive."

It added that it did not appear that U.S. families were targeted, but noted that "the sharp increase in kidnapping incidents in the Monterrey area, and this event in particular, present a very high risk to the families of U.S. citizens who might become incidental victims."

School officials were not immediately available for comment.

FEMSA has said the guards were on standard patrols in the area when the gunmen attacked, and said it did not appear related to any attempt to kidnap a relative of one of the company's executives.

Companies based in Monterrey, a business hub that is Mexico's most prosperous city, have tried to protect areas where their employees work, live or go to school amid a rising tide of drug-fueled violence.

Mexican authorities played down the idea that the shooting outside the school was tied to a kidnapping attemptl.

An employee at the press office of the Nuevo Leon state prosecutors' office who was not authorized to be quoted by name said the main working hypothesis of investigators is that members of a drug gang happened on the FEMSA security detail and mistook them for gunmen from a rival drug cartel.

The security guards were traveling in three sport utility vehicles at the time of the attack.

Elsewhere, police in the border city of Tijuana found two bodies on the outskirts of town Monday and were searching for more. Baja California state prosecutors said recently arrested suspects told authorities at least four more bodies had been buried in the same area, which is across the border from San Diego.

Also on Monday, a judge ordered the released of 13 Tijuana city police officers who were arrested by soldiers and sent to prison more than a year ago on charges of protecting drug traffickers. The judge ruled there wasn't enough evidence.

(This version CORRECTS that bodies in Taxco mine were found in May instead of July.)