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Two Jesuit Priests, Tour Guide Found Killed In Mexico, Suspect Identified

Jesuit priests hold a mass next to the photos of two priests Javier Campos and Joaquin Mora who were murdered, after Mexican authorities said that they are searching for their bodies along with others who were kidnapped in a violent stretch of northern Mexico, at San Ignacio de Loyola church in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2022. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Jesuit priests hold a mass next to the photos of two priests Javier Campos and Joaquin Mora who were murdered, after Mexican authorities said that they are searching for their bodies along with others who were kidnapped in a violent stretch of northern Mexico, at San Ignacio de Loyola church in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2022. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

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

The bodies of two Jesuit priests and a tour guide shot dead this week in a gang-ravaged area of northern Mexico have been found after a major search, authorities said Wednesday.

The three were killed on Monday after a suspected run-in with a wanted drug trafficker in the border state of Chihuahua, a crime that drew swift condemnation from the Pope.

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

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

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

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

The office 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 the drug trade.

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

Chihuahua attorney general Roberto Fierro said authorities were also looking for two people who were kidnapped on Monday before the killings of the priests and tour guide.

Authorities had told Reuters on Tuesday the killings followed the kidnapping of four tourists at a nearby hotel, however, Fierro said on Wednesday the state did not have reports of missing tourists.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the wife of one of the murder victims is among the missing, apparently referring to Palma.

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first published:June 23, 2022, 09:09 IST