GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Seven headless, mutilated bodies were found in a taxi abandoned in the tourist resort of Manzanillo in western Mexico, apparently victims of the country's drug violence epidemic, local officials said Sunday (Jan 22).
"They were mutilated, apparently decapitated, and one of the victims was a woman," the port city's police chief Carlos Heredia told AFP.
He said a message on the vehicle's windshield was signed by the powerful Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug cartel, which is blamed for a surge in murders in the tiny Pacific state of Colima, where Manzanillo is located.
The Colima prosecutor's office said the seven bodies had yet to be identified.
The past six months have seen an increase in killings linked to disputes within the Jalisco cartel, police records show.
On Jan 16 and 17, six people were shot to death in three separate incidents in Manzanillo. Authorities believe all were linked to organised crime.
With drug baron Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's recent extradition to the United States, his powerful Sinaloa cartel is expected to face a rising challenge from the Jalisco gang, a onetime ally now estimated to be worth US$50 billion.
The Jalisco group's incursions into Sinaloa territory have turned Colima state into the Mexican region with the highest homicide rate, with 72 killings per 100,000 inhabitants last year. The gang, also known by its Spanish initials CJNG, has also launched bold attacks on the police and military.
In March and April 2015, the cartel killed 20 police officers in two separate ambushes in western Jalisco state. In May of that year, the gang used a rocket-propelled grenade to down a military helicopter, killing seven soldiers and a policewoman.
The latest killings in Manzanillo came less than a week after a mass shooting in another normally peaceful Mexican resort, this one on the Caribbean coast.
A shooting erupted early Monday at a music festival in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun, leaving at least five people dead and 15 injured, the mayor said. Three of the dead were foreigners. Authorities attributed the attack to a turf war between drug cartels.
The region, popular among American and European tourists, had been largely spared from the drug violence plaguing other parts of Mexico.