Associated Press
A member of a caravan of Central American mothers holds a photograph of her lost child in Mexico City. The sign reads in Spanish "Looking for Denis Mauricio Jimenes Bautista."

MEXICO CITY — A Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday calls Mexico's anti-drug offensive "disastrous" and cites 249 cases of disappearances, most of which show evidence of having been carried out by the military or law enforcement.

The report says the enforced disappearances follow a pattern in which security forces detain people without warrants at checkpoints, homes or workplaces, or in public. When victims' families ask about their relatives, security forces deny the detentions or instruct them to look for their loved ones at police stations or army bases.

Human Rights Watch criticizes former President Felipe Calderon for ignoring the problem, calling it "the most severe crisis of enforced disappearances in Latin America in decades."

While the report acknowledges that current President Enrique Pena Nieto inherited the problem, it says he should act urgently "in cases where people have been taken against their will and their fate is still unknown."

Mexico's Interior Department, which oversees domestic security, declined to comment.

The missing include police officers, bricklayers, housewives, lawyers, students, businessmen and more than 1,200 children under age 11.