49 Decapitated Bodies Found on Mexico Highway

Mexican authorities found 49 bodies, with their heads, hands and feet severed, on a northern highway leading to the Texas border on Sunday morning, and blamed it on rivalry between drug cartels.

The bodies of 43 men and six women were found in a pool of blood near the town of San Juan on the Monterrey-Reynosa highway, about 80 miles southwest of the U.S. border, before dawn Sunday, The Associated Press reported.

While bodies were taken for DNA tests, Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Jorge Domene told reporters it would be difficult to identify the bodies as they were without heads, hands and feet.

The victims were likely killed a day or two ago at another location and then their bodies were dumped at the entrance of the San Juan town, state Attorney General Adrian de la Garza said.

Authorities found a message spray-painted with black letters on a white stone arch nearby, apparently referring to the Zetas cartel, a gang of former Mexican special-forces soldiers. "100% Zeta," read the message.

Officials suspect the victims could be from a rival gang called Gulf, allies of Zetas until 2010. They said there continues to be violence between criminal groups. "This is not an attack against the civilian population," Domene was quoted as saying.

Officials also said the victims might be Central American immigrants or from another state as police had not received many reports of local missing persons.

Earlier this month, the bodies of 23 people, also believed to be from the Gulf cartel, were found hanging from a bridge or decapitated near the border city of Nuevo Laredo.

Last August suspected members of Zetas attacked a casino in Monterrey killing 52 people.

Since December 2006, when the government started a crackdown on drug gangs, over 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence across Mexico.