TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — The charred and mutilated body of a man found on the bank of a lagoon in the northern city of San Pedro Sula is that of a missing journalist, Honduran authorities confirmed Wednesday.
Investigators identified Anibal Barrow’s body through dental records and other forensic tests, Honduras’ top prosecutor Roberto Ramirez said.
Ramirez said he wouldn’t discuss possible motives in the slaying to avoid harming the investigation.
The 62-year-old journalist had a popular daily morning news show called “Anibal and Nothing More” on Globo television in San Pedro Sula.
The body was found Tuesday in a shallow pit on the bank of the Siboney lagoon, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of San Pedro Sula. Buried nearby was a bank book and a credit card with Barrow’s name, along with clothing and a belt that resembled what he was wearing the day he was kidnapped.
National police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla said Barrow’s body had been beheaded and the arms legs cut off before it was set ablaze.
Bonilla said four people have been detained in the killing and that there were 10 suspects in the case altogether, including a minor.
“All of them directly participated in Barrow’s killing,” Bonilla said.
Local media reported that one suspect was being treated as a witness after leading police to the body, but Bonilla wouldn’t comment on that.
Heavily armed men kidnapped Barrow on June 24 while he was driving in his truck. Three of his family members were also taken, but were quickly released unharmed.
Authorities discovered a bullet hole and traces of blood in his truck when it was found days later.
Barrow’s slaying has highlighted the unsafe conditions Honduran journalists work in and the impunity that reigns in the Central American country.
Manuel Antonio Alcantara, a television reporter in the capital of Tegucigalpa, said his son often begs him to switch professions. Alcantara said he tries to keep a low profile and rarely leaves the house when he’s not working.
“There is fear,” he said. “What happened to Anibal and his family today could happen to one of us tomorrow.”
Alcantara said his colleagues often discuss the risks of their work, but still continue to share information.
Hedy Quintero, a television reporter for 10 years, said he takes a different route to work each day to throw off potential attackers.
The killing of a sports intern at his TV station last year in one of many unsolved crimes make journalists feel they are unsafe no matter what kind of stories they cover, Quintero said. “There is fear, but you know you have to overcome it,” he said.
Honduras’ Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio Lopez said the violence against reporters represents a threat to everyone living and working in Honduras, one of the world’s most dangerous countries. But he said the murders haven’t stopped reporters from doing their jobs.
“There is freedom of the press here,” Custodio Lopez said.
Associated Press writer Cristina Silva in Tegucigalpa contributed to this report.