(Mexico City) Four soldiers were charged with the death at the end of February in Mexico of five civilians, Monday by justice which placed them in preventive detention, a few months after a debate on the “militarization” of society.

They are accused of having fired live ammunition at seven young people traveling in a car in the early hours of Sunday, February 26 in Nuevo Laredo (northeast), a border town of the United States.

Five of the passengers were killed, a sixth injured and the seventh escaped unscathed.

The military are charged with “qualified homicide” by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, court sources said. They were placed in pre-trial detention in a military detachment in Mexico City, sources from the Judicature Council said.

The soldiers were on a routine patrol when they heard gunshots, before spotting a vehicle driving without plates and all lights off, a statement from the Secretariat (Ministry) of Defense explained in early March.

As the soldiers approached, the driver accelerated to the point of colliding with a parked vehicle. The soldiers opened fire upon hearing a deafening noise.

The young people “were victims of excessive use of force” and “illegitimate use of firearms”, however, estimated on March 22 the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH, a sort of ombudsman or mediator of the Republic).

Nuevo Laredo is the scene of violence attributed to drug trafficking. On December 7, local authorities announced the deaths of seven suspected criminals in a clash with soldiers.

The opposition and Amnesty International denounced at the end of 2022 the “militarization” of Mexico implemented according to them by the nationalist leftist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Created to replace the federal police, the National Guard came under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense. Another law made it possible at the end of 2022 to extend the presence of the army in public security operations until 2028.