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Mexico rescues 49 migrants kidnapped from bus

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Forty-nine migrants from Honduras, Haiti, Venezuela, El Salvador, Brazil and Cuba who had been kidnapped from a commercial bus in central Mexico have been found, Mexico's defense minister said on Thursday.

The migrants were found in several groups in the central state of San Luis Potosi and the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon to the north, including about 30 people early on Thursday, Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said.

Several hundred members of Mexico's armed forces had participated in the search, and Sandoval said they would look for any remaining migrants, as well as the bus drivers. The total busload was estimated to be about 50 people.

"We're going to keep looking, and the drivers are a priority," Sandoval told a government news conference.

Some of the migrants told authorities that members of an organized crime group had boarded the bus when it stopped at a gas station, he said.

An unnamed Honduran migrant, speaking in a video released by San Luis Potosi state prosecutors, said the bus had departed from the southern state of Chiapas and was about three hours from the northern city of Monterrey when it was intercepted.

A person who stopped the bus demanded a payment of 40,000 pesos ($2,250) from the bus owner and kidnapped the migrants, the Honduran migrant said.

The incident was the latest mass kidnapping in Mexico, where migrants bound for the U.S. must pass through areas rife with drug violence and with patchy rule of law, making them vulnerable to organized crime.

Several busloads of Nicaraguans were kidnapped late last year in the northern state of Durango in one of the biggest known kidnappings of migrants in Mexico in recent years.

($1 = 17.7767 Mexican pesos)

(Reporting by Natalia Siniawski, Lizbeth Diaz and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Nick Macfie and Bill Berkrot)