MEXICO CITY – Mexican authorities said on Wednesday they had found 14 secret graves in the northern border state of Sonora.
State prosecutors say there were bones in the burial pits, some with burns, and decomposing bodies.
Investigators said they cannot yet determine the number of bodies, but it is rare for drug cartels to take the trouble to dig more than one pit to bury the same body. Thus, the number of victims is likely to be at least 14.
The dead body dumping ground was discovered in a patch of scrubland by volunteer search teams made up of relatives of the missing. It is located near a highway west of the state capital Hermosillo.
Sonora has been the scene of drug gang turf battles, involving factions of the Sinaloa Cartel, allies of the Jalisco Cartel, and gangs allied with fugitive drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero.
The announcement came a day after police discovered three more bodies hanging from a highway overpass in the central state of Zacatecas, where 10 more bodies were found last week.
The Zacatecas state public security agency said in a statement that three bodies were found in the city of San Jose de Lourdes on Tuesday.
Zacatecas has been the scene of a fight for territory between drug cartels. A week earlier, 10 bodies — nine of which were hanging from an overpass — were found in Ciudad Cuoutémoc, another city, about 340 miles (550 kilometers) north of Mexico City. The 10th body was found on the pavement. The victims were all men.
On Wednesday, the Mexican military announced it would send about 1,750 more soldiers and 1,650 more members of the para-military National Guard to perform law enforcement duties in Zacatecas.
The military will also send three helicopter gunships – a weapon that President Andres Manuel López Obrador has explicitly stated he no longer wants to use or accept from the United States.
Those roughly 3,400 soldiers would almost double the current combined force of about 3,900 members of those forces currently stationed in Zacatecas.
Defense Secretary Luis Crescencio Sandoval said the number of murders linked to organized crime in Zacatecas has nearly tripled since 2019, from 560 that year to an estimated total of 1,450 this year.
Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation Cartels are struggling for control in the state, a major transit point for drugs, especially the potent synthetic pain reliever fentanyl, which is heading north toward the US border.
Cartels sometimes make such public displays of dead bodies to taunt their rivals or officials and to intimidate local residents.
According to federal figures, in the first nine months of the year, there were more than 25,000 murders in Mexico, a 3.4% decrease compared to the same period a year earlier.