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Mexican Soldiers Detained in Probe

October 14, 2002

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MEXICO CITY (AP) _ About 600 Mexican soldiers have been detained for 11 days and tortured during an investigation into alleged links to drug traffickers, a human rights group alleged Monday.

The soldiers are being held in facilities in the city of Guamuchil, Sinaloa, 680 miles northwest of Mexico City, said Benjamin Laureano Luna, president of the non-governmental Mexican Front for Human Rights.

``They have been confined to the barracks, cut off from communication and subjected to torture and cruel and degrading treatment,″ Luna said in a telephone interview.

Officials from the Department of Defense would not confirm or deny the detentions or comment on the allegations of abuse.

Luna said that the matter was brought to his attention by wives of the soldiers who complained that their husbands had been held incommunicado for 11 days.

Finally, on Sunday, officials allowed a large group of women who had gathered outside the facilities to visit with the soldiers, Luna said.

``The women discovered that they had kept the soldiers on their knees, with their hands behind their heads, that some had been hit or lost teeth and others had torture marks,″ Luna said.

Authorities estimate that more than 200 drug distributors operate in Sinaloa, a state in western Mexico where marijuana and poppy, the principal ingredient in heroin, are grown in the Sierra Madre mountains.

The state is the birthplace of many drug traffickers and has been the site of bloody battles between warring smugglers.

Last month, Gov. Juan Millan said 80 percent of the more than 270 homicides that occurred in the state during the first five months of this year were drug-related.