Mexico army holds 8 soldiers in June killing of 22

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Mexico army holds 8 soldiers in June killing of 22
In this Thursday, July 3, 2014 photo, state authorities use crime scene tape to seal off an unfinished warehouse that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon in Mexico state, Mexico. It's hard to get residents here to speak on the record about the warehouse, because they say they fear the army or drug gangs who carry out kidnappings, extortion and murder and move openly in the area. Mexico's military says one soldier was wounded, and all 22 suspects were killed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
In this Sept. 15, 2014 photo, a woman who did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals, shows photographs of her daughter Erika Gomez Gonzalez on the wall of her home in Arcelia, Mexico. The woman says she witnessed her 15-years-old daughter's death when army soldiers fired first at an armed group at a grain warehouse on June 30 in the Mexican town of San Pedro Limon. According to her, one man died in the initial shootout, and the rest of the gunmen surrendered on the promise they would not be hurt. She recalled that her daughter was face down in the ground with a bullet in her leg, and was rolled over while she was still alive and shot more than half a dozen times in the chest. The mother said she arrived to the warehouse the day before the shooting in an attempt to take her daughter home, but gang members wouldn't let her. (AP Photo/Eduardo Castillo)
In this Sept. 15, 2014 photo, a woman who did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals, lays out the clothes of her late 15-year-old daughter Erika Gomez Gonzalez, on a bed at her home in Arcelia, Mexico. The woman says she witnessed her child's death when army soldiers fired first at an armed group at a grain warehouse on June 30 in the town of San Pedro Limon, Mexico. She said one man died in the initial shootout, when the rest of the gunmen surrendered on the promise they would not be hurt. She recalls that her daughter, who was face down in the ground with a bullet in her leg, was rolled over while she was still alive and shot more than half a dozen times in the chest. The mother said she arrived to the warehouse the day before the shooting, in an attempt to take her daughter home, but gang members wouldn't let her. (AP Photo/Eduardo Castillo)
In this Sept. 15, 2014 photo, a photograph of Erika Gomez Gonzalez, left, hangs on the wall of her mother's home in Arcelia, Mexico. Gomez's mother, who did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals, says she witnessed her daughter's death when army soldiers fired first at an armed group at a warehouse on June 30 in the town of San Pedro Limon, Mexico. She said one man died in the initial shootout, when the rest of the gunmen surrendered on the promise they would not be hurt. She recalled that her daughter, who was face down in the ground with a bullet in her leg, was rolled over while she was still alive and shot more than half a dozen times in the chest. The mother said she arrived to the warehouse the day before the shooting, in an attempt to take her daughter home, but gang members wouldn't let her. (AP Photo/Eduardo Castillo)
In this Sept. 15, 2014 photo, a photograph of 15-year-old Erika Gomez Gonzalez stands on an altar in her honor inside her mother's home in Arcelia, Mexico. Gomez's mother, who did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals, says she witnessed her daughter's death when army soldiers fired first at an armed group at a warehouse on June 30 in the town of San Pedro Limon, Mexico. She said one man died in the initial shootout, when the rest of the gunmen surrendered on the promise they would not be hurt. She recalled that her daughter, who was face down in the ground with a bullet in her leg, was rolled over while she was still alive and shot more than half a dozen times in the chest. The mother said she arrived to the warehouse the day before the shooting, in an attempt to take her daughter home, but gang members wouldn't let her. (AP Photo/Eduardo Castillo)
In this Sept. 15, 2014 photo, a woman who did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals, holds up a photograph of her late 15-year-old daughter Erika Gomez Gonzalez, at her home in Arcelia, Mexico. The woman says she witnessed her child's death when army soldiers fired first at an armed group at a grain warehouse on June 30 in the town of San Pedro Limon, Mexico. She said one man died in the initial shootout, when the rest of the gunmen surrendered on the promise they would not be hurt. She recalls that her daughter, who was face down in the ground with a bullet in her leg, was rolled over while she was still alive and shot more than half a dozen times in the chest. The mother said she arrived to the warehouse the day before the shooting, in an attempt to take her daughter home, but gang members wouldn't let her. (AP Photo/Eduardo Castillo)
In this Sept. 14, 2014 photo, a market vendor walks past a shuttered Coca Cola distribution plant in Arcelia, Mexico. The region is plagued by drug violence, and the company decided to close the plant amid attacks that resulted in the burning of two distribution trucks. Violence in the area included a June 30 incident in the town of San Pedro Limon in which the Mexican army says it killed 22 alleged gang members in a shootout, deaths that relatives of the dead say were execution-style slayings. (AP Photo/Mark Stevenson)
In this Sept. 13, 2014 photo, the graves of Marcos Salgado Burgos, 20, right, and his brother, Juan Jose Salgado Burgos, 18, mark their deaths as June 30, 2014 in a cemetery in Arcelia, Mexico. The young menís mother said her sons died in a June 30 confrontation between Mexican army soldiers and a suspected drug gang at a warehouse, and believes they were killed after they surrendered and were disarmed. The Mexican government has maintained that 22 people killed on the early morning of June 30 died in a fierce shootout with security forces, a version that came into question because government troops suffered only one wounded and physical evidence at the scene pointed toward more selective killings. (AP Photo/Eduardo Castillo)
FILE - In this July 3, 2014 file photo, bullet holes and blood stain a wall above where bodies were found in an unfinished warehouse that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon in Mexico state, Mexico. The Mexican government has maintained that 22 people killed on the early morning of June 30 died in a fierce shootout with security forces, a version that came into question because government troops suffered only one wounded, and physical evidence at the scene pointed toward more selective killings. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)
FILE - In this July 3, 2014 file photo, a state police vehicle sits parked outside a warehouse that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon, in Mexico state, Mexico. An eyewitness to the confrontation says all but one of the 22 victims were shot after they had surrendered to the army and were disarmed. The Mexican government has maintained that those killed on the early morning of June 30 died in a fierce shootout with security forces, a version that came into question because government troops suffered only one wounded, and physical evidence at the scene pointed toward more selective killings. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)
In this Thursday, July 3, 2014 photo, men stop to look into an unfinished warehouse stained with blood, days after it was the site of one of a gun battle between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals, on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon, in Mexico state, Mexico. One witness, who lives near the warehouse, said he heard extended gunfire coming from the general direction of the building during the pre-dawn hours of June 30. The man, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, said the shooting, including automatic fire and loud bangs he thought were hand grenades, went on for almost two hours. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
In this Thursday, July 3, 2014 photo, low-lying clouds sit amidst the mountains in the area around Amatepec, in Mexico state, Mexico. Mexico’s Defense Department says that on June 30, soldiers came under fire from a warehouse as they were patrolling in the area, one of the most violent, lawless corners of Mexico. Neighboring Guerrero state is home to a drug gang known as Guerreros Unidos, which is reportedly battling the Michoacan-state-based La Familia cartel for control of the area. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
In this Thursday, July 3, 2014 photo, observers from the United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights inspect a warehouse that was the site of one a gun battle between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals, on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon, in Mexico state, Mexico. UN observers who inspected the warehouse just moments before state authorities closed it off with police "no entry" tape, noted there were no signs of stray bullets of the type that would be left by soldiers shooting automatic weapons from a distance. Nor were there signs of outgoing fire from within the warehouse. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
FILE - In this July 3, 2014 file photo, a cross and candles left by relatives of the dead mark the ground near bloodstains in an unfinished warehouse that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon, in Mexico state, Mexico. Mexico’s Defense Department says soldiers were patrolling in one of the most violent, lawless corners of the country on June 30 when they came under fire from a warehouse where a gang of 21 men and one woman were hiding. Mexico's military says one soldier was wounded, and all 22 suspects were killed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)
In this Thursday, July 3, 2014 photo, a paper marking where body number 15 was found lays on the ground inside an unfinished warehouse that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals, on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon, in Mexico state, Mexico. Employees of the Mexico State medical examiners' office, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press, said the dead were mostly youths between the ages of 16 and 24, and were from neighboring Guerrero state. Mexico's military says one soldier was wounded, and all 22 suspects were killed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
In this Thursday, July 3, 2014 photo, low-lying clouds hover over the town of Tejupilco, in the same mountainous region that witnessed a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals, in Mexico state, Mexico. The shootout was the most dramatic in a string of battles in which the army says criminals fired first at soldiers who then killed them all, while suffering few or no losses. There have been so many such incidents that human rights groups and analysts have begun to doubt the military’s version. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
In this Thursday, July 3, 2014 photo, bullet holes and blood stains cover a wall above papers marking where bodies were found in an unfinished warehouse that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon, in Mexico state, Mexico. Bullet marks and blood spatters on the walls inside a grain storage warehouse deep in the mountains of southern Mexico tell a grim story of death involving soldiers and alleged criminals. It may not be the same story officials tell, however. Mexico's military says one soldier was wounded, and all 22 suspects were killed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
In this Thursday, July 3, 2014 photo, soldiers patrol a road near the village of San Pedro Limon, the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals in Mexico state, Mexico. The June 30 shootout was the most dramatic in a string of battles in which the army says criminals fired first at soldiers who then killed them all, while suffering few or no losses. There have been so many such incidents that human rights groups and analysts have begun to doubt the military’s version. Mexico's military says one soldier was wounded, and all 22 suspects were killed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
In this Thursday, July 3, 2014 photo, state police stand guard on the road outside a warehouse that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon, in Mexico state, Mexico. The shootout was the most dramatic in a string of battles in which the army says criminals fired first at soldiers who then killed them all, while suffering few or no losses. There have been so many such incidents that human rights groups and analysts have begun to doubt the military's version. Mexico's military says one soldier was wounded, and all 22 suspects were killed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
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PETER ORSI Associated Press
MEXICO CITY (AP) - An army officer and seven soldiers are being detained in connection with the killing of 22 people in rural southern Mexico, an encounter that the military initially reported as a shootout but that a witness later described as a massacre.

The Mexican Defense Department said in a statement late Thursday that the eight were involved in the June 30 incident in San Pedro Limon, but did not specify how. They were being held at a prison in Mexico City on charges of crimes against military discipline, disobedience and dereliction of duty.

The statement said the military charges are being pursued "independently of the investigations that civil authorities are carrying out under their jurisdiction."

The federal Attorney General's Office, which is conducting a criminal probe of the killings, had no immediate comment.

Raul Plascencia, president of Mexico's National Human Rights Commission, reserved comment, saying the Defense Department statement was not clear on the soldiers' connection to the killings. Plascencia's commission is also investigating the case.

Recent reforms require that alleged military offenses against civilians be tried in civilian courts, but doesn't bar the military justice system from pursuing its own charges.

Shortly after the confrontation, the army reported that 22 suspected criminals had been killed in a firefight with troops. Only one soldier was wounded. The official version came into question when The Associated Press visited the scene days later and found no sign of a prolonged battle.

At least five spots inside the warehouse where the bloodshed occurred showed the same pattern: One or two closely placed bullet pocks, surrounded by a mass of spattered blood, giving the appearance that some of those killed had been standing against a wall and shot at about chest level.

Last week, a woman who says she witnessed the events told the AP that only one person died in the initial confrontation and the rest were shot after surrendering. The witness said the dead included her 15-year-old daughter, who had been wounded in the leg and was lying on the ground when she was killed.

Until recently, officials have stood by the initial account of a fierce firefight.

In July, the state of Mexico prosecutors' office released a statement saying there was "no evidence at all of possible executions." The office said it found ballistic evidence of "crossfire with a proportionate interchange of gunshots."

The state government refused to release autopsy reports that the AP requested under Mexico's freedom of information law, declaring them state secrets to be guarded for nine years.

The federal Attorney General's Office last week said that so far it had not found evidence corroborating the witness' account.

But this week, President Enrique Pena Nieto said in New York that the Attorney General's Office was diving into the investigation and would answer all questions. Army leaders also spoke of cooperating with the investigation and punishing any violations of human rights.

The U.S. State Department and international rights groups have called for thorough investigations. Human Rights Watch said the incident could prove to be one of the "most serious massacres in Mexico."
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