The two Honduran migrants whose bodies were found last week in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas were killed because they reported being targeted by extortionists, San Cristobal de Las Casas Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel said.

Iris Suleida Raudales Flores, 24, and Cynthia Carolina Cruz Bonilla, 19, were murdered last Thursday.

The women "had filed a complaint two days earlier about the extortion they were being subjected to," the bishop said.

"It is an international embarassment" that Mexico "does not provide greater protection to those crossing" its territory, Arizmendi said.

Nine illegal Honduran immigrants who allegedly belong to Central American gangs dedicated to extortion and robberies of migrants have been arrested in connection with the murders, officials said.

The suspects confessed to the killings, the Government Secretariat and the National Migration Institute, or INM, said in a joint statement.

"In their countries of origin, especially El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, they cannot find ways of improving their economic situation, they suffer from the violence of the street gangs and in their desperation, despite knowing the dangers they are exposing themselves to," try to cross Mexico, Arizmendi said.

The bodies of Raudales Flores and Cruz Bonilla were found outside Palenque, a city in Chiapas where "gangs of criminals rob, extort money from, abuse and murder" migrants, the bishop said.

The women's bodies were taken to the Honduran Consulate in Tapachula for repatriation and release to their families, the Chiapas Attorney General's Office said.

An estimated 300,000 Central Americans undertake the hazardous journey across Mexico each year on their way to the United States.

The trek is a dangerous one, with criminals and corrupt Mexican officials preying on the migrants.

Gangs kidnap, exploit and murder migrants, who are often targeted in extortion schemes, Mexican officials say. EFE