Mexico City probes possible mass kidnapping at bar

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Mexico City authorities are investigating whether 11 young people who disappeared from a bar in a popular downtown night spot were kidnapped by gunmen in broad daylight, officials said Thursday.

The city's top prosecutor, Rodolfo Rio, said authorities were "not ruling out any line of investigation" after the group vanished in the Zona Rosa district last Sunday.

The public security chief, Mr Jesus Rodriguez, said it was "unclear whether or not it was a kidnapping", and that authorities had detained people on drug-related offenses in the same area.

An official in the prosecutor's office, who requested anonymity, said a group of masked gunmen had showed up at the bar.

"At first, it appeared that their goal was not to take the youths but to rob them. However, they took them in the end," the official said, adding that it was unclear if the incident occurred inside or outside the bar.

The mother of a 16-year-old boy who was with the group said her son was not part of a street gang and insisted that gunmen had taken them away.

"It was definitely an armed group, we don't know from where. They arrived at the bar and told them there would be a (police) operation," Ms Leticia Ponce told MVS radio, urging authorities to look at security camera footage.

She said the gunmen took them away in several cars.

Mexican media say the young people come from the capital's tough Tepito neighbourhood.

The bar they went to stays open all night during the weekend and is in a part of town famous for its nightlife and entertainment.

According to Reforma newspaper, the group's relatives said the bar managers told customers to leave at around 10am on Sunday because a police operation was about to take place.

Once in the street, armed men forced the young people to climb inside three sport-utility vehicles that appeared to have police insignia, the daily said.

Four women were among the people who disappeared.

Mexico has been plagued by kidnappings in recent years, with official figures showing 1,043 cases between January and October 2012, although experts say the numbers are likely much higher. At least 53 kidnappings were reported in the capital during that period.