July 3, 2019 / 2:45 PM / 13 days ago

Mexico arrests five suspects in kidnapping of Cancun call center workers

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Five suspects have been arrested in the kidnapping of more than two dozen call center workers who were likely caught in a business dispute in the Mexican tourist city of Cancun, a state official said on Wednesday.

People stand behind a police cordon as they wait for news after employees were kidnapped by unidentified individuals from a call center, in Cancun, Mexico July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Delgado

Quintana Roo Attorney General Oscar Montes de Oca said the call center employees and the business owner were freed by law enforcement officers on Wednesday morning several hours after Tuesday night’s kidnapping.

“Our investigation has led us to the preliminary conclusion that this was a dispute between owners of the business, and in fact one of the owners was among the 27 captives,” Montes de Oca said.

The conflict may have arisen from an argument over withheld payment and employee mistreatment at the call center that sells vacation packages, the official said.

Montes de Oca also said he would investigate whether the suspects were drug cartel members.

The rescue was carried out by forces including the National Guard, a military police created this year by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to tackle entrenched violence across the country.

About eight armed people stormed the call center on Tuesday evening, taking 30 hostages into two vans without signs of struggle and driving them to a house on the outskirts of Cancun, Montes de Oca said, citing witness accounts.

When police entered the house, they found five heavily armed men standing guard over 27 of the call center employees, who were blindfolded. Montes de Oca said three captives had already been released.

The police detained three of the kidnappers immediately and captured the remaining two after a short chase, he said.

Officers also recovered five AR-15 style rifles and two 9-calibre guns from the house.

Reporting and writing by Rebekah F Ward; Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Daina Beth Solomon and Grant McCool

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