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Catholic youth volunteers beaten, raped and shot while delivering earthquake aid in Mexico

(Reuters/Claudia Daut)A man holds up a sign that reads "silence" as rescue personnel look for people underneath the rubble of a collapsed building in Mexico City.

Members of a Catholic youth group were reportedly beaten, raped and shot while they were bringing aid to earthquake victims in south Mexico.

The volunteers, who were delivering food and relief aid to communities affected by the earthquakes in Oaxaca on Tuesday morning, were intercepted by unidentified gunmen who shot up their cars. The assailants reportedly raped one of the girls, beat one of the men and shot another in the neck.

The suspects took away the supplies, the youths' cellphones and approximately $2,300 collected to purchase items to donate to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Mexico City.

"We are very sad. We have cried at the impotence of the situation, as much for the young people as the girl who was raped," the statement said, as reported by Catholic News Service.

"We hope that both (of the injured) survive. We are still awaiting a medical report on these brave young people," it continued.

Southern Mexico was hit with a deadly quake on Sept. 7, leaving nearly 100 people dead and many more homeless in Oaxaca and Chiapas states. Another quake struck near Mexico City on Sept. 19, claiming at least 337 lives. The federal government has reported that more than 150,000 homes have been damaged in both disasters, while church officials in dioceses close to the capital report massive damage to churches.

Carlos Arvizú, Administrator of Papa Francisco Pro Felicitas AC, noted that this was not the first time that volunteers have been attacked. He said that other aid workers have been assaulted and claimed that the Mexican army even tried to rob volunteers from Guanajuato of their relief supplies.

He said that he had to restrict some relief efforts in the interest of safety, adding that neither the federal government nor the locals had contributed efforts to provide security for volunteers.

Aid being sent over land has been halted for now in light of the attack against the youth aid workers, and future volunteers have been warned about potential attacks and have been advised to stay off the highways, according to Arvizu.

He further noted that his organization has had to redirect a truck filled with food from Morelia, Michoacán, and put a hold on aid coming from San Diego, California because of the risks on the aid workers.

"If the government guaranteed the safety of the volunteers, this would not have happened. They are not helping, working or carrying food, neither the president nor the governors of the states ... but the work they have to do, that of providing security to those who do help, is practically nothing," he said.

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