In the latest violence in Mexico's deadly drug war, decapitated body parts of 18 people have been discovered near Mexico's second largest city of Gudalajara on Wednesday.
The Zetas drug cartel – one of the most powerful gangs in Mexico – is believed to be behind the beheadings, which are one of the largest in recent Mexican history. The U.S. government considers the Zetas to be the most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico.
The bodies and heads, some of which had been refrigerated prior to their disposal, were discovered in two abandoned vehicles. The vehicles were found along a highway from Guadalajara to the lakeside city of Chapala. Some of the discovered bodies were so dismembered that police could not tell if the victims had been male or female.
A note was found near the dismembered bodies that had been signed by the Zetas cartel, Tomas Coronado Olmos, chief prosecutor for the state of Jalisco, told The Associated Press. Coronado Olmos said that the killings appeared to be revenge attacks for the deaths of 23 people last Friday in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
"They are clearly messages between rival groups that are in conflict," Coronado Olmos told AP.
Nine of the bodies in Tamaulipas were found hanging on a bridge and another 14 were found decapitated and stuffed into iceboxes and garbage bags.
Mexico has been enthralled in a deadly drug war since 2006 that has left more than 50,000 people dead across the country.
Last week, former Mexican President Vicente Fox called the military crackdown on drugs launched in 2006 by current Mexican President Felipe Calderon "useless."
"Mexico must urgently get out of this trap we're in," Fox said at a meeting with foreign correspondents where he argued that since Calderon launched the war on drugs the drug-related murder toll in the country has risen.
In March, during a three-day tour to Mexico, Pope Benedict XVI urged the Mexican people to maintain their faith in light of the increased drug violence.
"At this time, when so many families are separated or forced to emigrate, when so many are suffering due to poverty, corruption, domestic violence, drug trafficking, the crisis of values and increased crime, we come to Mary in search of consolation, strength and hope," Benedict XVI said.