The Mexican government said Wednesday it hasn't found evidence to confirm a priest's report that at least 80 Central American migrants were kidnapped from a freight train last week.
Interior Department Deputy Secretary Rene Zenteno said two witnesses from Honduras and Guatemala told federal investigators they saw gunmen get off the train and take two women, two men and a child with them.
"The investigation until now hasn't found evidence or another testimony that can confirm" a larger mass kidnapping, Zenteno said.
The Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, who manages a migrant shelter in the state of Oaxaca, has said witnesses told him more than 80 migrants were abducted in neighboring Veracruz state by gunmen who hijacked the freight train on which they were traveling Friday.
Solalinde told Radio Formula that witnesses told him the gunmen forced migrants to climb down from atop the cars and stuffed some into at least three waiting SUVs.
"What (the witnesses interviewed by authorities) saw were the first five get in the cars, but they are not the only ones ... do you think they would need three SUVs for five people?" Solalinde said.
Zenteno said that if the priest has more evidence, he should give it to authorities.
"He's assuming that they were kidnapped because they got on the train," Zenteno said.
In December, Solalinde reported that about 30 migrants were taken from a train in Oaxaca state. Mexican authorities initially said there was no evidence the kidnapping had taken place but eventually arrested five people in the abductions.
Thousands of Central American migrants enter Mexican territory without permission each year, most bound for the United States.
A report released in February by Mexico's National Human Rights Commission says at least 11,333 migrants were abducted between April and September 2010.
Zenteno said authorities have rescued more than 4,000 migrants since January and arrested 147 alleged migrant traffickers.
He said most of migrants were rescued in the northern state of Tamaulipas, across the border from Texas.
One of the worst attacks against migrants in recent history occurred in Tamaulipas last August, when 72 migrants were killed in the town of San Fernando. The Zetas drug cartel is suspected in that killing.
The Foreign Relations Department said Wednesday that it has been in communication with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras "to facilitate the flow of information in the case of the alleged mass kidnapping."