OAXACA, Mexico (AFP) – Gunmen have kidnapped at least 60 undocumented migrants, including children, who were aboard a freight train in Mexico trying to get to the United States, a shelter director said.

Alejandro Solalinde, a priest who heads the Brothers Along the Road hostel, in the southwestern state of Oaxaca, told AFP that a dozen gunmen on Friday seized the migrants trying to make it toward the US border.

"At least 60 or 80 people, if not more, were kidnapped" from the freight train, Solalinde said, adding that women and children were among those snatched.

Some 250 migrants were aboard the train when the gunmen climbed aboard in a rural area of southeastern Mexico. Many managed to flee, Solalinde said.

Prosecutors in Veracruz and Oaxaca states however told AFP they had no information about the dramatic case.

The train, which left the Oaxaca city of Ixtepec for the eastern state of Veracruz, was stopped by the gunmen after about four hours, according to Solalinde, who saw several Central Americans at his hostel on that day.

"Before arriving at the Medias Aguas station in Veracruz, the driver stopped the train when the tracks were blocked by three trucks with armed men" who seized the migrants, Solalinde told AFP.

"The armed men stepped out of the trucks and after threatening the migrants with firearms, they forced the migrants off the train" and onto the trucks, he added.

Illegal migrants, mostly from Central America, use the train to reach the US borders, along with Mexicans from the southern part of the country seeking a better life in the United States.

In August 2010, a total of 72 undocumented Central and South American migrants were kidnapped and killed in Tamaulipas, north of Veracruz en route to the US border, a crime the government has attributed to the Los Zetas drug gang.