Three priests have been kidnapped and killed in Mexico in just a few days, raising the death toll of clergy murdered in the country to 15 in less than four years.

Fr Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and Fr José Alfredo Suárez de la Cruz were dragged at gunpoint out of Our Lady of Fatima parish in Poza Rica, a Gulf Coast oil city in Veracruz state that has been consumed by crime in recent years.

Local media reported that the men were found a day after their abduction. They were left beside a highway with their hands and feet bound. They had been beaten and had gunshot wounds, according to reports.

A day after their bodies were discovered, another priest was abducted in the state of Michoacan. Fr José Alfredo López Guillén, who was taken by force after his residence and the parish were robbed, was found dead on Sunday.

Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia said in a video message that the priest was a “good man, dedicated to doing good and peaceful, which is why this barbarism cannot be justified in any way”.

State officials said that five men participated in the abductions of the two murdered priests and one of the suspect’s identities was known. Robbery was cited as a motive, according to local reports.

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