Mexico's drug war has claimed more than 47,500 victims in five years, according to a government body count.
By The Telegraph
The figures came as two decapitated bodies were found inside a burning SUV early on Wednesday at the entrance of one of Mexico's most luxurious malls, feeding fears the drug violence is beginning to infiltrate privileged realms previously thought safe.
Police recovered the mutilated bodies before dawn off a toll highway at a shopping mall entrance in the heart of the Santa Fe district that is a haven for international corporations, diplomats and the wealthy. The heads and a threatening message were dumped a few yards away, Mexico City prosecutors said in a statement.
Hours later, the government released the drug war body count figures.
Local media published images of the charred car and reported that a note written on hot pink paper was signed by the drug gang Mano con Ojos, or Hand with Eyes. Mexican police had said the gang was weakened by the arrest of its leader, Oscar Osvaldo Garcia, in August.
The victims, a man and a woman in their 30s, had not been identified, prosecutors said. They said the SUV with license plates from neighbouring Mexico state had been stolen.
Nationwide, 47,515 drug-related killings occurred from December 2006, when President Felipe Calderón deployed thousands of troops to drug hot spots, through September 2011, the Attorney General's Office said Wednesday.
Drug-related killings rose 11 per cent in the first nine months of 2011, when 12,903 people were killed, compared to 11,583 in the same period of 2010, the office said.
The figures indicate that three-quarters of all homicides in Mexico are now linked to the drug war.
The Attorney General's Office found one small consolation: "It's the first year (since 2006) that the homicide rate increase has been lower compared to the previous years."
There was a 70 per cent jumped in drug-related killings for the same nine-month period of 2010 compared to January-September 2009, when 6,815 deaths were recorded.
Prosecutors said the vast majority of last year's killings occurred in eight of Mexico's 32 states.
The Mexican government had been periodically releasing the number of drug war dead, but it stopped a year ago when the number reached nearly 35,000. Mexico's freedom of information agency had said it would ask for an investigation if prosecutors didn't release the data requested by several journalists by Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said during a conference in Washington D.C. that in the first five years of the offensive against drug cartels, Mexico's federal police had arrested 2,700 gang suspects and 205 gang leaders, had investigated 283,000 extortion complaints and seized 10,000 tons of marijuana, 111 tons of cocaine and seized 136,000 weapons, 11,000 grenades and 13 million rounds of ammunition.
Mr Garcia Luna said Mexico has seized $935 million dollars presumed related to illegal activities.