- Associated Press - Monday, January 28, 2013

MONTERREY, MEXICO (AP) - Searchers pulled 10 bodies from a well in northern Mexico on Monday, near the site where 20 members of a Colombian-style music group and its crew disappeared late last week, a state forensic official said.

It was hard to determine how many more bodies were submersed in the water, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the case.

Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina earlier told a local television station, “We have evidence that indicates that (the bodies) may very well be the members of this band,” though he said experts were still working to identify them.

The bodies recovered showed signs of torture, the official said.

Sixteen members of the band Kombo Kolombia and four crew members were reported missing early Friday after playing at a private party held at a ranch called La Carreta, or The Wagon, in the town of Hidalgo north of Monterrey.

The forensic official said authorities had been searching for two days when they came upon the well Sunday along a dirt road in the town of Mina, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Laredo, Texas.

People living near the ranch in Hidalgo reported hearing gunshots at about 4 a.m. Friday, followed by the sound of vehicles speeding away, said a separate source with the Nuevo Leon State Investigative Agency. He also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by the news media.

The officials added that gunfire is common in the area and said investigators found spent bullets nearby.

Relatives filed a missing persons report on Friday after losing cellular phone contact with the musicians. When they went to the ranch to investigate, they found the band members’ vehicles still parked outside.

Kombo Kolombia has played a Colombian style of music known as vallenato, which is popular in working class neighborhood in the city of Monterrey and other parts of Nuevo Leon state. Most of the group’s musicians were from the area, though state officials said one of those missing is a Colombian citizen with Mexican residency.

The band regularly played at bars in downtown Monterrey on the weekend. At least two of the bars where they had played had been attacked by gunmen.

It was Mexico’s largest single kidnapping since 20 tourists from the western state of Michoacan were abducted in Acapulco in 2010. Most of their bodies were found a month later in a mass grave. Authorities said the tourists were mistaken for cartel members.

Members of other musical groups have been murdered in Mexico in recent years, usually groups that perform “narcocorridos” that celebrate the exploits of drug traffickers. But Kombo Kolombia did not play that type of music, and its lyrics were about love and heartbreak and did not deal with violence or drug trafficking.

But singers of drug exploits are not the only musicians targeted, said Elijah Wald, author of the book, “Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns and Guerrillas.”

“There is really not correlation. Drug guys hire people to play for their parties and they hire whatever is happening,” he said. “Sergio Gomez, the single-most famous singer killed from K-Paz de la Sierra, his big hit was a version of `Jambalaya.’ “

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