Witnesses of rapes, kidnappings and murder discuss traveling the “highway of death” in Mexico’s northern Tamaulipas state, where authorities recently unearthed a pit containing at least 127 bodies.
“There were four SUVs, all grey and with tinted windows. Everyone was armed.” So begins the shocking testimony from anonymous victims who witnessed a series of kidnappings two months ago in Tamaulipas. The kidnappings took place on Federal Highway 101, which has become known to local residents as “the highway of death.”
According to authorities, this highway has become a haven for car hijackings, kidnappings and murders. The violence has become so bad, in fact, that local bus lines have even instructed their drivers to go miles out of their way to avoid the road. On April 1, an official investigation into these incidents led authorities to a cluster of mass grave outside San Fernando. The Zetas, long based in Tamaulipas, have been accused of carrying out the killings.
The video interviews were conducted by Mexico’s El Universal, and provide terrifying details of the kidnappings. One woman, whose bus was stopped by gunmen at a roadblock, told reporters that the men forced young women and girls out of the bus at gunpoint, stripped them naked, raped them, and drove them away in trucks, leaving the remaining bus passengers traumatized.
One bus driver, who said he had avoided being stopped thus far, said he was lucky. “At the station I met another driver who was a half hour behind me. They stopped him, and took twelve people from his bus.”
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the disappearances is the fact that the victims don’t seem to fit a profile. As another driver said, “They take the same people that live around here, people of this country or people that are here on business. They’re good people, people that don’t appear to be criminals and that you wouldn’t imagine to be involved in drug trafficking.”
As of April 13, the total body count of the mass graves outside San Fernando has been raised to 116, and officials say seventeen suspects have been arrested in connection to the graves. According to a report by Mexico’s Excelsior, authorities have so far found 334 bodies in mass graves since the beginning of 2010, including the discovery of eleven bodies in a grave in Sinaloa on April 12.
The full video of the interviews is embedded below.