Police found 11 bodies over the weekend at two highway rest stops in Nuevo Laredo, a border city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, officials said.
The unidentified bodies were discovered Sunday morning on the highway that links Nuevo Laredo to Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon state, police spokesmen told Efe.
Seven bodies were found at kilometer 7 and the other four were at kilometer 11, and all the victims had been shot, police said, adding that the killers left messages next to the bodies.
Three suspected drug traffickers, meanwhile, were killed in a shootout Friday with soldiers in Nuevo Laredo, located across the border from Laredo, Texas, the Defense Secretariat said.
The incident occurred at kilometer 13 of the Nuevo Laredo-Monterrey federal highway, the secretariat said.
The shootout started when soldiers from a unit assigned to the 4th Military Region stopped a tractor-trailer that was being “driven in an erratic manner,” the secretariat said.
A group of armed men inside the trailer opened fire when the soldiers tried to open the door.
“An explosion was heard inside the cargo compartment” during the shootout, the secretariat said.
The blast started a fire that killed the three gunmen, the secretariat said.
Soldiers found three partially burned bales of cocaine, a package containing synthetic drugs, 31 rifles, nine handguns, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), 16 other grenades, a fragmentation grenade, 156 ammunition clips for different types of weapons, 24 rounds of loose ammunition, 13 cell phones, cash and other gear inside the truck.
Most of the weapons were burned, the secretariat said.
The border state of Tamaulipas has been the scene since early last year of a war for control of territory and smuggling routes between the Gulf and Los Zetas drug cartels.
A total of 15,270 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, and more than 35,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country’s cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.
Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels’ ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking officials.