MEXICO CITY — An army officer and seven soldiers have been detained and charged in the killing of 22 people in rural southern Mexico, authorities announced late Thursday.
The Mexican Defense Department said in a statement that the eight were involved in the June 30 incident in San Pedro Limon. They were being held at a prison in Mexico City on charges of crimes against military discipline, disobedience and breach 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 its own 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 nothing appears to 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. But just one soldier was wounded, raising questions.
When The Associated Press visited the scene soon after the killings, there was no sign of a prolonged battle. Physical evidence suggested at least some of those who died had been shot at around chest level as they were standing against a wall.
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.
The U.S. State Department and international rights groups recently expressed concern and called for an investigation.
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