Mexican soldiers have freed 165 people kidnapped while attempting to reach the US, the country's Interior Ministry says. The group, which included 150 from Central America, 14 from Mexico, and one from India, was held for weeks in a packed, filthy house in the city of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, in Tamaulipas state, officials say. Human traffickers appear to have passed the group to criminal organizations instead of taking them into the US, a ministry spokesman says, per CNN.
"They were held against their will while a suspected criminal group contacted their families by phone and demanded different sums of money that were sent to their kidnappers," the spokesman notes. Two of the victims were pregnant and 20 were underage. Officials received a tip about the kidnapping, prompting soldiers to head to the house, where they detained a 20-year-old suspect, Juan Cortez Arrez. The kidnapping of migrants is a continuing problem in the region; some 11,333 were kidnapped over six months in 2010, human rights activists note.