Mexico says arson at US company linked to extortion

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MEXICO CITY (AP) — An arson attack on a subsidiary of a U.S. energy-services firm was part of an extortion attempt, prosecutors in southern Mexico said Wednesday.

The attorney general in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco, Fernando Valenzuela, said five attackers forced their way into the company's yard and burned three trucks.

"Unfortunately, the motive was extortion," Valenzuela told the Radio Formula station.

He confirmed local media accounts that the attackers said the arson was punishment for the company ignoring demands for protection payments.

Valenzuela said the attackers appeared to be familiar with the plant's facility near the state capital of Villahermosa.

He added that there was a previous arson attack against another oil-services firm in January. It was unclear if those two attacks were related.

Thousands of smaller Mexican companies have been subject to extortion demands by criminal gangs, but larger, foreign-owned firms have seldom been acknowledged as targets.

The company whose compound was attacked was identified by prosecutors as Key Energy Service, and the company appears to be a unit of Houston-based Key Energy Services Inc.

Repeated calls to the company's U.S. and Mexican offices went unanswered.