Six people were found decapitated inside an abandoned car in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, the state Attorney General’s Office said Thursday.
The vehicle was left on a heavily traveled road linking Morelia, the state capital, with the city of Quiroga, authorities said.
All of the victims – five men and a woman – were bound and had the letter “Z” etched on their skin, sources in the AG office told Efe. The marks may refer to “Los Zetas,” a band of deserters from the Mexican special forces who now constitute the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
The presence of the “Z” could indicate the victims were affiliated with the group or that the killings were the work of Los Zetas, currently at odds with the main criminal outfits in Michoacan.
Authorities say they don’t know yet whether Thursday’s victims had any links to the other six people found decapitated in Michoacan earlier this month, or to the half-dozen who turned up beheaded in the town of Acahuato on Jan. 29.
In another western state, Sinaloa, five men were found decapitated Tuesday next to a primary school. Those victims also had the letter “Z” carved on their bodies.
And 12 people were killed Wednesday in the northern state of Chihuahua, coinciding with a visit by Mexican President Felipe Calderon to Ciudad Juarez, the state’s largest city, for discussions on a new public safety plan.
Four of Wednesday’s victims died in a single incident in the town of Jimenez, where a quartet of private security guards were killed execution-style and dumped alongside a highway.
Two people were slain in separate incidents in Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, which lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.
Those killings brought Ciudad Juarez’s 2010 death toll to nearly 350 and the city’s murder total since January 2008 to more than 4,200.
Across Mexico, some 17,000 people – including nearly 1,300 so far this year – have died in drug-related violence since December 2006, when the newly inaugurated Calderon militarized the struggle with the cartels.
Both Mexican and international human rights organizations have cited the military for scores of abuses against civilians and Calderon heard complaints about the soldiers’ behavior when he came to Juarez last week, but he insisted the troops would remain. EFE