Bodies of priests and tour guide killed in Mexico found, suspect named

  • The bodies of priests and lay people killed on Monday found
  • Pope expresses shock at killings
  • Murder suspect named, search ongoing

MEXICO CITY, June 22 (Reuters) – The bodies of two Jesuit priests and a tour guide shot dead this week in a gang-ravaged area of ​​northern Mexico were found after a major search on Wednesday, authorities said.

The three men were killed on Monday after an alleged altercation with a wanted drug trafficker in the border state of Chihuahua, a crime that was quickly condemned by the pope.

“We found and recovered (…) the bodies of Jesuit priests Javier Campos, Joaquin Mora and tourist guide Pedro Palma,” Chihuahua Governor Maria Eugenia Campos said in a video posted on social media.

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Pope Francis said he was shocked by the killings as authorities searched for the murder suspect.

“So many killings in Mexico,” Francis said at the end of his general audience before thousands in St. Peter’s Square.

The Chihuahua prosecutor’s office said the three men were killed after Palma took refuge in a church in the town of Cerocahui to protect himself from an attack. Read more

The bureau named Jose Noriel Portillo Gil as a suspect in the murders and offered a reward of five million pesos, or nearly $250,000, for information relating to his whereabouts.

The state said in 2018 that Portillo, who is also the prime suspect in the murder of American teacher Patrick Braxton-Andrews, was involved in drug trafficking.

The three bodies were removed from the church by a group of men in the back of a pickup truck, Luis Gerardo Moro, leader of the religious order in Mexico, said in a radio interview.

Chihuahua Attorney General Roberto Fierro said authorities are also looking for two missing brothers who were allegedly abducted by Portillo on Monday, before the murders.

Fierro said the men recently played in a baseball game against a Portillo-sponsored team, which ended in an argument after Portillo’s team lost. Portillo shot one of the brothers in a house on Monday, which he set on fire, Fierro reported, according to witnesses.

Fierro also confirmed that a missing woman and child were safe.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella in the Vatican and Kylie Madry and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by Alison Williams and Alistair Bell

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