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priests who were executed Victims of today's kidnapping and execution.

Two Veracruz priests kidnapped, murdered

A third man escaped from the kidnappers, described as armed commandos

Two priests kidnapped this morning from a church in Poza Rica, Veracruz, were executed following their abduction.

Alejo Nabor Jiménez and José Alfredo Juárez de la Cruz were snatched by armed commandos from Nuestra Señora de Fátima Catholic church, triggering a search operation by state police and the Mexican Army.

Their bodies were found at one o’clock this afternoon near the Papantla-Poza Rica highway at a place known as Devil’s Curve in the municipality of Papantla.

Their hands and feet had been bound and they had been shot several times with high-caliber rifles.

A third man, a church official, was also kidnapped but was located alive but bruised after he reportedly escaped.

A report earlier this year said 40 Catholic priests were murdered in Mexico in the last 10 years. The Catholic Multimedia Center (CCM) said crimes against priests soared during the Felipe Calderón administration, when 25 lost their lives.

Fifteen had been killed in the first three years of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s term, and two were missing, the report said.

An analysis in February by InSight Crime, a crime research organization, suggested that priests who teach messages of social justice and peace are likely to become direct targets of organized crime gangs.

A priest at CCM said an activist role can put them on the front line. “They defend migrants, they’re against drug trafficking,” said Omar Sotelo. “And they often know who the criminals are, having seen them grow up in the towns.”

Some will therefore see the priests as a threat, he said.

Sotelo said another factor was a new generation of “dehumanized” crime syndicates and splinter cells who will “target just about anything.”

Source: Milenio (sp), InSight Crime (en)

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