Eduardo Verdugo / AP
Friends of the missing put posters at the entrance of a bar in in Mexico City on Thursday.
MEXICO CITY -- Eleven young people were brazenly kidnapped in broad daylight from a bar in Mexico City's Zona Rosa, a normally calm district of offices, restaurants, drinking spots and dance clubs, anguished relatives said Thursday.
The apparent mass abduction purportedly happened sometime between 10 a.m. and noon on Sunday just off the Paseo de la Reforma, the city's main boulevard, near the Angel of Independence monument and less than two blocks from the U.S. Embassy.
The incident was the second recent high-publicity blemish for the city's largely unregulated entertainment scene, coming 20 days after the grandson of American civil rights activist Malcolm X was beaten to death at another tough bar in the downtown area.
Calling for authorities to find their loved ones, family members marched Thursday morning from the Interior Department building to the Zocalo, the city's main square. Later they protested outside the bar, which bears a sign that reads Bicentenario Restaurante-Bar, and demanded to see the bar's surveillance video.
"How could so many people have disappeared, just like that, in broad daylight?" asked Josefina Garcia, mother of Said Sanchez Garcia, 19, her only son. "The police say they don't have them, so what, the earth just opened up and swallowed them?"
Eduardo Verdugo / AP
A woman holds up a sign with details of her recently vanished relative during a protest in Mexico City on Thursday.
She said her son wasn't involved in any criminal activity, and worked at a market stall selling beauty products.
City prosecutors said they had received 11 missing-person reports, but Garcia said residents of the tough downtown neighborhood of Tepito where the victims live thought as many as 15 or 16 people could have been abducted.
The known missing include six men, most in their 20s, a 16-year-old boy and four young women.
While no clear motives had been revealed in the attack, residents of Tepito said there has been a wave of abductions of neighborhood young people in recent months that could be related to organized crime activities. Tepito is the center of black market activities in the city, where guns, drugs, stolen goods and contraband are widely sold.
Mass abductions have been rare in Mexico City, but are common in parts of the country where drug cartels operate and are fighting with rival gangs over territory.
Prosecutors slapped closure stickers on the front doors of the Mexico City bar Thursday, with inscriptions saying the city's anti-kidnapping unit was investigating abductions at the site.
Late Thursday night, dozens of members of a special police intervention unit, many carrying automatic weapons and wearing helmets and bulletproof vests, blocked off the street in front of the bar and searched inside. Officers would not comment on what they were looking for.
Isabel Fonseca, whose brother is among those missing, said a man who escaped told her that masked men arrived in several white SUVs and took the group away. She said her brother, Eulogio Fonseca, is a street vendor who sells cellphone accessories.
"We want them alive," Fonseca said. "They went out to have fun; they are not criminals."
Mexico City's chief prosecutor, Rodolfo Rios, said investigators had been able to glean little information on the disappearances.
Relatives believe the youths were at the club, which they know as "Heaven," around midmorning Sunday, when waiters and bar employees herded them out to the street and armed men bundled them into waiting vehicles and spirited them away.
Rios said police had not located any employees of the bar and no other witnesses had presented themselves.