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MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Mexican police rescue 2 kidnapped journalists

The cameramen were seized Monday after covering protests at a Durango prison that is said to be under the control of organized crime. One reporter remains unaccounted for.

August 01, 2010|By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Mexico City — Mexican federal police on Saturday rescued two of four journalists kidnapped five days earlier by a drug gang in northern Mexico, authorities said.

The case highlighted the dangers faced by journalists in Mexico, where criminal gangs often seek to silence news coverage or slant it in their favor. The captors had demanded the airing of homemade videos that linked a rival gang to corrupt police in the states of Durango and Coahuila.

Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said intelligence work led to a predawn operation that freed cameramen Javier Canales of Multimedios Laguna and Alejandro Hernandez of Televisa from a house in Gomez Palacio, Durango.

Hernandez told reporters at a news conference that the hostages were beaten and threatened. He showed reporters a head wound that he'd suffered a day earlier.

Televisa reporter Hector Gordoa was freed by his captors Thursday. The whereabouts of the fourth captive, Durango newspaper reporter Oscar Solis, was not immediately clear, although there were reports that he had been released.

The journalists were seized Monday after covering protests at a Durango prison that is said to be under the control of organized crime.

The kidnappings produced an outcry. On Thursday, Televisa broadcast a black screen in place of the scheduled magazine-style program that employs its captured staffers. Mexico's interior minister, Francisco Blake, went before cameras Friday to condemn the crime.

At least 30 journalists have been killed or have gone missing since President Felipe Calderon announced a crackdown on drug cartels in 2006. On Friday, attackers hurled grenades at the Televisa station in the border city Nuevo Laredo.

In the Durango case, Televisa and Milenio Television agreed to air three videos that claimed ties between the Zetas gang and corrupt police. Garcia Luna said the kidnapping was carried out by a group tied to the Sinaloa drug cartel run by Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman. Local journalists have said that cartel is in control in the Durango prison.

Federal officials said inmates were permitted to leave the prison for a short time with weapons borrowed from guards to kill rivals. The attacks included a July 18 shooting at a party across the state line in Torreon, Coahuila, that killed 17 people.

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

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