Monterrey, Mexico: Five Arrested Over Mass Murder At Casino Royale

29 Aug

People, one holding up a sign that reads in Spanish "Peace in Nuevo Leon," demonstrate during a protest in Monterrey, northern Mexico, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. Hundreds of people protested outside the state government offices in Monterrey  three days after an arson attack on a casino killed some 52 people. Most demonstrators wore white shirts and held protest signs against political leaders. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — Police in northern Mexico have arrested five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel suspected of setting a casino fire that killed 52 people, authorities said Monday.

Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina said police are looking for two other suspects.

The five men, aged 18 to 37, have confessed to participating in the attack Thursday at the Casino Royale and of belonging to the Zetas drug cartel, the governor said, and some had been arrested before for kidnapping or extortion.

Police are investigating whether the attack in the city of Monterrey was in retaliation for not paying extortion money.

The attack “was directed at the casino, not at the people,” Medina said in at a news conference where he also showed a video where two men are seen at filling large jugs with gasoline at a gas station near the crime scene.

Another surveillance tape of Thursday’s fire shows eight or nine men arriving in four cars and carrying canisters into the Casino Royale. In little more than two minutes, the casino is in flames and choking black smoke churns from the building.

According to witnesses, the gunmen burst into the casino and shouted for people to get out, saying they were burning the place down. But people ran farther inside the building and many were found dead from smoke inhalation in offices and bathrooms.

President Felipe Calderon has offered a $2.4 million reward for information leading to the capture of the casino’s attackers, an amount comparable to rewards offered for the arrest of the country’s top drug lords.

The attack shocked Mexicans in part because most of the victims were middle class women who frequented the casino with friends.

On Sunday, hundreds of people clad in white held signs demanding an end to the violence, as well as the resignation of the governor and Monterrey’s mayor.

People demonstrate during a protest in Monterrey, northern Mexico, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. Hundreds of people protested outside the state government offices in Monterrey  three days after an arson attack on a casino killed some 52 people. Most demonstrators wore white shirts and held protest signs against political leaders. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

The city has seen a spike in drug violence since the split last year between the Gulf and Zetas drug cartels. The fight has left more than 1,000 people dead so far this year in Nuevo Leon state, compared to 828 in 2010 and 267 in 2009.

Nationwide, more than 35,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug gangs in late 2006, according to the government. Others put the death toll near 40,000.

NEWS UPDATE:

A police officer escorts Javier Martinez aka "Javo", an alleged member of the Zetas drug cartel, during his presentation to the press in Monterrey, Mexico, Tuesday, Aug. 30 2011. Police arrested five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel suspected of the arson fire at a casino in Monterrey last Thursday that killed 52 people. (AP Photo/Hans-Maximo Musielik)

A police officer escorts Javier Martinez aka “Javo”, an alleged member of the Zetas …

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — Mexican officials said Tuesday they are looking for seven more suspects in addition to five already arrested in an arson fire at a casino that killed 52 people and shocked a country used to grisly displays of drug violence.

At least 12 people were involved in the attack in this northern industrial city, Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina said.

Medina commented as authorities showed journalists the five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel who have been arrested in the case.

Gunmen ignited gasoline at the entrance to the Casino Royale on Thursday. Terrified customers and employees ran deep inside the building, and many were found dead from smoke inhalation in offices and bathrooms.

Police are investigating whether the attack was in retaliation for not paying extortion money.

Later on Tuesday, Nuevo Leon state police discovered the bones of seven people inside metal barrels at a camp in Monterrey’s hillsides that apparently was used by a drug gang.

Local media said the five men in police custody for the casino attack led officers to the site, but authorities did not confirm that. They announced only that the remains had been found and gave few details.

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