POSTED: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 7:07am
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 1:12pm
ACAPULCO, Mexico — Arrests could come as early as this week in the rape of six Spanish tourists in Acapulco, the lead investigator in the case told CNN on Wednesday.
Mexican authorities have identified the suspects and are monitoring them, Marcos Juarez said.
The six women were among 14 people victimized by a group of hooded gunmen who burst into a beach bungalow in the resort town before dawn Monday. The incident drew worldwide attention.
Mexico's Foreign Ministry put out a statement assuring that the Spanish tourists received consular aid after the incident.
"The government reiterates its friendship ties with the Spanish people and expresses its solidarity," the statement said.
There are seven suspects, between ages 20 and 30, Juarez said.
In addition to the rapes, the men stole cell phones, iPads and tennis shoes from the victims, investigators said.
The suspects were known to the victims, he added. Investigators believe that the victims bought drugs from one or more of the suspects a day or two earlier, Juarez said.
The victims -- Spanish nationals ranging in age from 20 to 34 -- are now under the protection of Mexican authorities.
Seven men who were with the group were tied up with cell phone cables and bikini straps while the gunmen assaulted the six women, officials said.
A seventh woman, a Mexican, was spared because of her nationality, Guerrero state Attorney General Martha Garzon said in a radio interview.
"She has said that she identified herself to the men and asked them not to rape her. And they told her that she had 'passed the test' by being Mexican, and from that point they don't touch her," the attorney general told Radio Formula.
The gunmen's motive was robbery and "to have some fun," Garzon said. They do not appear to be a part of organized crime, officials said.
The honorary Spanish consul in Acapulco, Pedro Haces, told the state-run Notimex news agency that the victims are now in Mexico City.
Military checkpoints were set up in an effort to apprehend the suspects.
Investigators have also cordoned off the area surrounding the bungalow, which is in an open area with limited security in Playa Encantada, as they sift through evidence.
The city of Acapulco brought in roughly half a million tourists last year. Most of them were Mexicans, including residents from the capital and Cuernavaca who flocked to beaches a four-hour drive away.
The U.S. State Department says "resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes."
But the agency adds that resort city bars, including those in Acapulco, can be "havens for drug dealers and petty criminals."