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Armed men kidnap 27 farm workers in Mexico

Police in northwestern Mexico are searching for 27 farmworkers who were kidnapped by dozens of heavily armed men wearing military-style uniforms.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Police hunted Tuesday for 27 farmworkers who were kidnapped in northwestern Mexico by dozens of heavily armed men wearing military-style uniforms.

Assailants roused the farmworkers from bed before dawn Monday at a vegetable farm just outside the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan, then drove off with the group in a caravan of sport utility vehicles, according to a statement from state Attorney General Alfredo Higuera.

The victims, all men between 16 and 61 years old, made less than $10 per day.

Higuera said the motive in the mass kidnapping was still being investigated. But local news media reported that a drug gang may have kidnapped the men to make them work growing marijuana.

The owner of the vegetable camp has family ties to Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, a suspected leader of the Juarez drug cartel, according to a statement from the office of joint police and military operations in Culiacan.

Also Tuesday, 21 police were arrested in the northern border city of Tijuana on suspicion of working with criminal gangs, said Rommel Moreno, attorney general of Baja California state, where Tijuana is located. Two of the officers were state police and the rest came from municipal ranks, Moreno said.

Moreno declined to release further details of the case to avoid compromising the investigation.

Police corruption is a key impediment to Mexico's efforts to root out drug gangs and other criminal groups.

More than 4,000 people have been killed across the country this year as cartels battle for drug routes and lash back at President Felipe Calderon's national crackdown on organized crime.

On Tuesday, the body of a 28-year-old man was dumped in an empty lot in the beach resort of Rosarito, outside Tijuana. The victim was still carrying a loaded gun.