(CNN) -- About 50 Central American immigrants were kidnapped by gunmen earlier this month from a train crossing through Mexico, a Salvadoran official told CNN en Español Wednesday. The government of Mexico has not confirmed or denied the incident.
The incident has been mired in mystery since a priest who runs a shelter for immigrants first reported the story this week. He came forward after a group of immigrants who escaped from their would-be captors arrived and said that the incident took place December 16 in the town of Chahuites, in the state of Oaxaca near the border with Guatemala.
Juan Jose Garcia, El Salvador's vice minister for Salvadorans abroad, said his government can confirm that the mass kidnapping happened as the survivors state.
He said about 12 men armed with assault rifles and machetes forced the migrants off the train and divided them into two groups of about 25 each. Then they were taken to an unknown location, he said.
But the Mexican government has not officially confirmed the incident happened.
Mexican officials said that the country's National Migration Institute carried out an operation in the same area on the same night and noted that the train company did not report its train being delayed or stopped in the area.
"We cannot confirm it or deny it. We are acting on the complaint we received," Irma Pineiro, Oaxaca state's cabinet chief, told CNN en Español.
The priest who made the story public, Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, said the immigrants he spoke with believed the kidnappers were the Zetas drug cartel. The cartel is also believed behind the killings of 72 migrants in northern Mexico in August.