Mexico City – The number of bodies pulled from mass graves in a rocky field outside the northern city of Monterrey rose to 50 Saturday, authorities said, marking one of the largest dumping grounds ever found for casualties of Mexico’s drug war.
Forensic experts used earthmoving machinery to dig up several new graves beyond the nine pits already excavated.
Unnamed military sources told the semi-official Notimex news agency that workers uncovered 12 new bodies early in the day, bringing to 50 the bodies dug up in a landfill in the township of Benito Juarez east of Monterrey.
Some of the bodies appeared to have been incinerated, while others had bullet wounds, the Milenio news network reported on its website. It said the victims appeared to have been killed within the past two weeks.
“The majority (of the victims) are men between 20 and 50 years old, and most of them have tattoos,” said Nuevo Leon State Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza, adding that forensic experts would conduct genetic tests to identify the victims.
The mass graves are the largest discovery of a drug war killing field since May, when authorities found 55 bodies in a deep shaft in Taxco de Alarcon in Guerrero state.
That shaft in Guerrero state and the new discovery in Nuevo Leon state, which borders Texas, are the largest known killing fields of victims of Mexico’s drug war, which has taken nearly 25,000 lives since late 2006.
The army was tipped off to the mass graves in an anonymous phone call last Thursday, and when medical forensic workers appeared at the site they found broken branches and vegetation covering freshly dug pits, some as deep as 11 and 12 feet.
El Universal newspaper, citing military sources, said the victims were executed in large numbers, and then thrown in the pits where they were set afire.
It said the mass graves, some 12 miles east of Monterrey, are in an area where drug traffickers linked to the Gulf Cartel maintain safe houses. The former chief of the Gulf Cartel, Juan Garcia Abrego, was captured in the same area in 1995.
Photos from the new site show a dirt ramp leading into a gravel pit near the Santa Catarina River, and abandoned tires scattered about. Several rock pits on patches of ground were charred.
In other news related to the drug war, the Ministry of Defense reported that soldiers had recovered 50 large tubes of the industrial explosive Tovex, after skirmishing with drug gangs in a mountainous area of Chihuahua state last Wednesday.
The explosive is the same type that authorities said was used in a car bomb in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, that killed three people on July 15, the first time that Mexican drug cartels are known to have employed vehicle-borne bombs.