Mothers find 28 clandestine burial sites in Mexico

Veracruz, Mexico - Mothers in east Mexico searching for missing loved ones said Saturday they have found a total of 28 clandestine gravesites with remains of some 40 bodies in the gang-ravaged state of Veracruz.

The women, who launched their own search for missing loved ones after growing tired of waiting for authorities to do so, have found all of the graves since August 1.

The area, located north of the port of Veracruz, "is a great cemetery of crime" that is used "like a camp to kill people who have been kidnapped," Lucia de los Angeles Diaz Genao, one of the mothers, told journalists.

She said she finds it hard to believe that "these things happened in Veracruz without the complicity of authorities." Saturday's new total doubles the previous August 10 count of 14 graves.

Local authorities did not respond to an AFP request for comment.

The discovered remains have been exhumed and delivered to forensic police.

"We hope to be able to know these victims' identities in about three months," Diaz Genao said.

She noted that the mothers, who have banded together in a group they call El Solecito, are uncertain of the exact number of buried individuals, as many bodies were found in collective graves.

The search will continue, as the mothers have so far covered a small land plot of about 10 hectares (25 acres).

Veracruz is the scene of a deadly turf struggle between two violent drug cartels: the Zetas and the Jalisco Nueva Generacion.

Both gangs seek to monopolize drug trafficking routes to the United States, and often kidnap and extort locals as well as immigrants from Central America.

Both criminal groups have buried their victims for years in clandestine graves, which have proliferated recently.

Since the government launched a militarized war on drug trafficking in December 2006, a surge in violence has claimed the lives of more than 166,000 people with more than 27,000 reported disappearances, according to official figures.

One of the most shocking cases involved the disappearance in January of five youths, one of them a minor, who were picked up by police and turned over to drug traffickers and allegedly murdered, their remains incinerated and ground up in a mill.

The government statistics do not specify how many of those violent deaths and disappearances are linked to drug trafficking.