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Mexican Police Make 5 Arrests In Casino Arson; Say 7 More Still At Large

Mexican authorities say they have arrested five men in connection with a Casino arson that killed 52 people. As we reported, last week, witnesses say armed men walked into the Casino Royale in Monterrey, ordered everyone out, then poured gasoline all over the building and set it on fire.

President Felipe Calderon blamed organized crime and called it an act of terror. Police said at least seven suspects are still at large. The AP reports:

Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina says at least 12 people were involved in the attack in the city of Monterrey.

Medina made the comments Tuesday as officials showed journalists five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel who have been arrested in the case.

...

Police are investigating whether the attack was in retaliation for not paying extortion money.

The Washington Post reports that the men arrested are members of Zeta, one of the more fearsome drug smuggling gangs in Mexico. As for the motive, The Los Angeles Times reports Casino Royale had been the target of gunmen twice before this year.

In Mexico, adds the Post, businesses must pay "tolls" and "rents" to organized crime in order operate and not face consequences. The Post adds:

Critics say the government is partly responsible for the tragedy, as the casino business has boomed under Calderon and many establishments operate without regulation or supervision. The operations are mostly cash businesses, ideal for money laundering. The Reforma newspaper reported Monday that 100 of the 800 casinos in operation are probably illegal.

Investigators are also interested in whether the Casino Royale had operating emergency exits and water sprinklers.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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