Violent images shared on social media showing the captivity and possible killing of five young men have sparked outrage in Mexico, though authorities have not confirmed the deaths and are keeping up their search.
The group of five friends, aged 19 to 22, disappeared last Friday in the western state of Jalisco, in a case that has triggered a rare level of anger in a country where murders and kidnappings are all too common.
The impact comes down in part to the circulation of the grisly video and photograph on social networks, with the Jalisco prosecutor’s office still working to verify the images’ authenticity and origin.
The photograph shows five young men kneeling and handcuffed, while the video records the moment one of them is attacked with a blunt object and a knife. Other people can be seen in the clip lying on the ground.
Authorities have contacted the families of the missing to inform them about the images.
“It’s highly possible that the young people who appear in the photograph are their relatives,” state prosecutor Blanco Trujillo said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The state prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Wednesday that it had secured a farm where blood stains and footwear were found, “which suggests that the five young people were” on the property.
It had earlier located two vehicles belonging to the missing men, one of them burnt and containing the remains of a person inside.
The graphic images shared on social media have drawn emotional reactions from citizens, columnists and politicians.
“In respect for the families … I will suspend the use of my social networks for 24 hours and tomorrow (Thursday) I will have no agenda,” opposition presidential hopeful Xochitl Galvez said on the social media platform X, declaring herself “in mourning” for the young men.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador did not respond to journalists’ questions about the case during a regular morning conference on Wednesday — apparently because he could not hear them — drawing severe criticism on social media.
The suspected kidnapping and murders are “evidently linked to organised crime,” the governor of Jalisco, Enrique Alfaro, said on X.
“We are facing irrational, violent and direct attacks on the stability of Jalisco that demand a reaction from the Mexican state,” he added.
Mexico has recorded more than 420,000 murders since the launch of a controversial military anti-drug offensive in 2006.
It has also registered more than 110,000 disappearances since 1962, most attributed to criminal organisations.