PUEBLO NUEVO, Mexico, March 30 (UPI) -- Ten students, ages 8 to 21, were shot to death while traveling in the Mexican state of Durango to receive government scholarships, officials said.
Officials said gunmen at a checkpoint -- the type used by drug traffickers who control parts of Durango -- opened fire and threw grenades at the victims' pickup truck after they apparently failed to stop Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
The dead included three girls, ages 8, 11 and 13, officials said. The rest of the victims were in their teens except for the oldest among the travelers, who was 21. Four of the dead were siblings.
The students were traveling to receive scholarships as part of the federal "Opportunities" program that supports low-income students, Ruben Lopez, a spokesman for the Durango state prosecutor's office, told the Times in a telephone interview.
Daniel Delgado, mayor of Pueblo Nuevo, a town near the crime scene, said he felt powerless to challenge the gangs.
"We need more military presence ... more police who are trained and equipped to fight the kind of criminals we are facing," he said in an interview with a Mexican television station.
Mexican authorities on Monday announced the capture of a suspect in the March 13 slaying of three people attached to the U.S. Consulate in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, the Times said. A spokesman for the joint police-military command said military personnel, acting on information provided by the FBI, apprehended a leader of the Barrio Azteca gang.