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Toll rapidly mounting in northern Mexico

The bodies of eight decapitated men were dumped Thursday along roads in Durango, a drug-gang-plagued northern Mexican state already grappling with the horror of discovering mass graves where 196 corpses have been unearthed so far.

Six of the naked bodies were found along a highway leading out of the state capital of Durango city, their heads lying nearby, according to a statement from the state attorney general's office.

Members of the Mexican Army patrol the streets of Matamaros city on April 26, 2011 in Tamaulipas state, northern Mexico. Since Mexican authorities exhumed a total of 183 bodies from 40 separate pits in the state over the last month, the families of hundreds of missing people have offered DNA samples to Mexican authorities. (AFP-Yonhap News)
Members of the Mexican Army patrol the streets of Matamaros city on April 26, 2011 in Tamaulipas state, northern Mexico. Since Mexican authorities exhumed a total of 183 bodies from 40 separate pits in the state over the last month, the families of hundreds of missing people have offered DNA samples to Mexican authorities. (AFP-Yonhap News)

The two other bodies were found in another city street. One was identified as the remains of Gerardo Galindo Meza, the deputy director of a city prison who had been kidnapped Monday. Galindo's head was on a different street corner, accompanied by a threatening message signed by a drug gang, the statement said.

It was the second time this week that beheaded bodies have been found in Durango state. Eleven corpses were found Monday, including six left across from a middle school in the capital. Investigators have announced no arrests or possible motives.

Durango is one of Mexico's most dangerous states, a drug cartel cradle where some of the most notorious kingpins are believed to be hiding. Homicides have more than doubled in the vast, mountainous state over the last two years amid a turf war between the Sinaloa and Zetas gangs.

Soldiers continue digging at mass graves discovered April 11 in five places around Durango city. The bodies of seven men and one woman were recovered Wednesday, bringing the toll to 196, the Durango Public Safety Department said in a statement.

Investigators say some of the victims have been dead as long as four years, while others were killed as recently as three months ago.

Dozens of relatives of people who have disappeared in Durango have come to determine if their loved ones were buried in the graves.

Durango's secretary for government, Hector Vela, told local reporters that many of the victims are likely gang members killed by rivals. But some may be missing police officers, and others may be victims of kidnapping and extortion attempts.

Only one body has so far been identified: a 31-year-old man who had been reported missing several months ago. His brother claimed the body.

Such mass graves have become a hallmark of Mexico's relentless drug conflict, which has claimed at least 35,000 lives nationwide since President Felipe Calderon sent thousands of troops and federal police into the strongholds of drug cartels in late 2006. The crackdown has led to major arrests, but violence has surged as splintered cartels fight increasingly gruesome turf battles.

Last month, security forces unearthed 183 bodies from 40 pits in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, many of them believed to be people kidnapped from passenger buses by the Zetas drug gang, which has been trying to forcibly recruit Mexicans and foreign migrants.

Just six of the 183 bodies have been identified so far, five Mexicans and one Guatemalan.

President Felipe Calderon's security spokesman, Alejandro Poire, said Tuesday that the government has deployed 500 soldiers in Tamaulipas to help curtail drug violence in an operation that will last a year.

Troops arrived Wednesday night at the state's capital, Ciudad Victoria. There is already a strong federal police presensce in Tamaulipas, where two formerly allied drug cartels_ the Zetas and the Gulf cartel _ are fighting.

The mayor of Ciudad Victoria, Miguel Gonzalez Salum, said he had taken guns away from local police officers.

A state official said the reason why they took away their arms was because 80 percent of the officers in two Tamaulipas cities failed background and security tests. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the case.

In the northern state of Sinaloa, which borders Durango, gunmen wielding Kalashnikov rifles attacked a car along a rural road outside the town of Choix on Wednesday, killing five people and injuring one, according to an official from the state attorney general's office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

The victims included a 19-year-old woman, her husband and their 9-month old daughter.

Police had no suspects and the motive was unclear.

In a separate attack, gunmen traveling in seven cars ambushed police officers leaving their base Wednesday night in the Sinaloa city of Los Mochis, the official said.

One officer was killed and two were injured in a gunbattle. Three cars stained with blood were abandoned at the scene, an indication that the attackers may have fled with injured or slain companions, the officials said.

The officers belong to a special state police unit, known as the Elite Group, created by Sinaloa Gov. Mario Lopez Valdez after he took office in January. The unit of 140 officers underwent training in investigative techniques at a federal police academy and has been deployed to hot spots around the state. The government hopes to have 850 officers join the force before the end of the year.

Asked about the ambush, Sinaloa Secretary for Government Gerardo Vargas said it may have been revenge for recent arrests by the elite unit.

Shortly after the ambush, banners were hung from bridges in Los Mochis and the state capital of Culiacan, accusing the Elite Group of being allied with Joaquin ``El Chapo'' Guzman, the fugitive leader of the Sinaloa cartel. There was no way to verify who put up the banners.

Lopez Valdez has come under fire after he rehired a former state police chief who had been charged several years ago with protecting the Sinaloa cartel. The government, which denies any ties to drug gangs, has defended the appointment of Jesus Antonio Aguilar Iniguez as a special police adviser, saying he was exonerated of the charges and has needed expertise.


<한글 관련기사>

목잘린 시체 멕시코서 또 발견, 누구의 소행?

목잘린 시체 8구가 멕시코 시티 북쪽에서 추가로 발견돼 주민들이 경악을 금치 못하고 있다.

목잘린 시체들이 발견된것은 이번주에만 두번째.

최근 멕시코에서 갱단에 납치ㆍ살해된 뒤 암매장된 것으로 보이는 피해자 시신 발굴 작업이 한달 넘게 계속되면서 당국에 수습된 시신수가 무려 380여구에 달하고 있다.

멕시코 중서부 두랑고주(州) 검찰은 희생자들 대부분이 마약조직원들이며 같은 지역에서 활동하는 라이벌 조직에 의해 살해된것으로 보인다고 전했다. 희생자들 중에는 경찰들도 포함되어있으며 납치된 사람들이 대부분이라고.

두랑고주에서 지난달 4일 첫 시신이 나온 뒤로 이날까지 모두 196구의 시신이 수십여개의 구덩이에서 발견됐으며 앞서 183구의 시신이 나왔던 북동부 타마울리파스주(州)와 합산할 경우 시신수는 무려 380여구로 크게 늘어난다.

당국은 6일에도 빈센테 수아레스지역에 대한 수색작업을 벌이고 있으며 주말동안에도 수색은 계속될 전망이다.

호르헤 에레라 칼데라 두랑고주 주지사는 5일 기자회견에서 암매장 살해사건의 범인들을 잡기 위해 기관간 협조의 필요성을 검토하고 있다고 밝혔다.

그는 두랑고주는 공공장소의 안전을 되찾는 것은 물론 새로운 형벌체계를 마련하려는 정부 기관 중의 하나라며, 이번 사건의 범인들을 반드시 잡아 법의 심판대 위에 세우겠다는 의지를 피력했다.

두랑고주에서 벌어지고 있는 집단 암매장 살해사건의 배후로는 주요 갱단 중의 하나인 '시날로아'가 지목되고 있다.

이 조직의 두목이었던 호아킨 구스만은 2002년 수감 중 탈옥한 뒤 막대한 금권을 이용해 부하들을 부리며 주내에 은신하고 있는 것으로 추정되고 있다.

'마약과의 전쟁'을 치르고 있는 멕시코에서는 지난해 1만5천270명을 포함해 2006년 12월 이후 모두 3만6천여명의 인명이 희생됐다.