Forty-nine decapitated and mutilated bodies were found Sunday dumped on a highway connecting the northern Mexican metropolis of Monterrey to the U.S. border in what appeared to be the latest blow in an escalating war of intimidation among drug gangs.
Mexico’s organized crime groups often leave multiple bodies in public places as warnings to their rivals, and authorities said at least a few of the latest victims had tattoos of the Santa Muerte cult popular among drug traffickers.
The bodies of 43 men and six women were found in the town of San Juan on the non-toll highway to the border city of Reynosa about 4 a.m., forcing police and troops to close the highway.
Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Jorge Domene said at a news conference that a banner left at the site bore a message with the Zetas drug cartel claiming responsibility for the massacre.
Domene said the fact the bodies were found with the heads, hands and feet cut off will make identification difficult. The bodies were being taken to Monterrey for DNA tests.
Nuevo Leon state Attorney General Adrian de la Garza said the victims could have been killed as long as two days ago at another location, then transported to San Juan, a town in Cadereyta municipality about 105 miles (175 kilometers) west-southwest of McAllen, Texas, or 75 miles (125 kilometers) southwest of the Roma, Texas, border crossing.