A government facility in southern Mexico was holding about 20 members of an extreme ultra-orthodox Jewish sect after one of its leaders was detained last Friday on suspicion of organized crime and people trafficking.
The group managed to overpower the guards there and escape.
Members of the Lev Tahor sect, primarily young children dressed in long, flowing robes, forced their way out of the building on Wednesday night, climbing over one private security guard who had fallen to the ground.
Immigration officers frequently hold migrants at the Huixtla shelter for children and families run by the federal government.
They entered a pickup waiting outside and rode it to the Guatemalan border. According to local police, the National Guard, and Mexico’s immigration office, they were not pursued.
On Friday, officials in Tapachula, close to the Guatemalan border, detained Menachem Endel Alter, a leader of the Lev Tahor sect from Jerusalem, on suspicion of involvement in organized crime and human trafficking.
Sect members claimed that a second leader had also been taken into custody, but officials have not confirmed this.
Lev Tahor has run into legal issues in the past.
Two of the group’s leaders were found guilty of charges involving kidnapping and child sexual exploitation in New York last November.
To get a 14-year-old girl back into an illicit sexual connection with an adult male, they allegedly abducted two of her children from their mother.
Israel, Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, and the United States are all known to have cult members.