Two priests killed Monday in an armed attack in Guerrero were targeted by a criminal gang because of one of the priests appeared to have connections with a rival gang, the state Attorney General’s office (FGE) said yesterday.
Germaín Muñiz García and Iván Añorve Jaimes were shot and killed early Monday morning on the Iguala-Taxco highway after the vehicle in which they were traveling was intercepted by a truck occupied by armed men.
They shot and killed the priests and wounded two men and two women.
In a statement released yesterday, the FGE said Muñiz had recently been photographed holding an assault rifle while in the company of armed and masked men.
The photograph had circulated on social media and appeared to link the priest to a criminal gang, which triggered the armed attack by members of a rival organization, the statement said.
The priests and their companions were returning from a dance in Juliantla “attended by many people belonging to various criminal groups” when they were attacked.
According to witnesses at the dance, there was a fight between several people and the group that accompanied the two priests, the FGE said.
In an earlier press conference, Attorney General Xavier Olea Peláez also said the priests were consuming alcohol at the event, which he described as “an indiscretion.”
The Guerrero Attorney General’s office said the perpetrators of the crime are from the state of México.
After officiating at a funeral service for Muñiz late yesterday, the bishop of the Chilpancingo-Chilapa diocese told reporters that the priest’s relationship with criminal groups was necessary for him to be able to travel between the towns of his parish.
“It was imprudent of the father to have had that photograph taken but the father had to greet them, he had to talk with them, he had to do it because he had to travel through his territory, if he didn’t, how could he pass through?” Salvador Rangel Mendoza said.
Rangel also justified the presence of the priests at the dance which, according to the FGE, was attended by criminal gangs from Guerrero, Morelos and México state.
“. . . The Father Iván Añorve was a very talented singer-songwriter, they went to Juliantla to offer his music . . .” he said.
The bishop has been a vocal proponent of dialogue with drug gangs as a means to stop violence, and has admitted to meeting with gang leaders.
According to Mexico’s Catholic Media Center, 21 priests have been killed in Mexico since December 2012.