Drug-related violence in Mexico escalated to a dramatic level on Tuesday when suspected drug traffickers provided rush hour traffic a horrific scene, dumping 35 bodies beneath an overpass in Boca del Rio, part of metropolitan Veracruz city.
Armed gunmen pointed weapons at motorists while the bodies were being dumped on a busy freeway near one of the largest shopping malls in the area. Frightened drivers used mobile phones and sent Twitter messages, warning others of the dangerous situation involving masked gunmen in military uniforms. One tweet read: “They don’t seem to be soldiers or police,” the AP reports. Another read: “Don’t go through that area, there is danger.”
Although prosecutors had viewed a surveillance video, no conclusions were made on who was responsible for the killings or the gruesome sight in the city. “We're not going to confirm or deny anything,” Veracruz state Attorney General Reynaldo Escobar Perez told Televisa, according to the AP. “We're looking at it in different ways, we're seeing different numbers, that's why we don't want to get ahead of ourselves.”
Seven of the victims identified had criminal records linked to organized crime, including murder, kidnapping, drug trafficking and extortion.
Local media reports stated 12 of the victims were female and several of the male victims were part of a three-prison escape in Veracruz on Monday, but the AG denied escaped convicts were part of the mass of dead bodies.
Earlier this month, the Mexican navy seized part of a communications network operated by Los Zetas throughout Veracruz state. Among items seized were computers, radio scanners, solar power cells, mobile radio transmitters and up to seven trailers serving as base stations, Stratfor reports.
With a military special operations background, Los Zetas is believed to utilize a higher level of communications networks than other cartels. The equipment seizure suggests the navy was preparing operations to push Los Zetas from the Veracruz port region. There is no report on a possible link between Tuesday’s gruesome scene and such a military operation.
Veracruz state, located along central Mexico’s Gulf of Mexico coastline, has become a major supply route for drugs and migrants from Central America, all making their way north toward the US.
Los Zetas, the powerful drug cartel trying to maintain control of Veracruz state, is at war with other cartels in the central part of Mexico. Drug cartels in the region include the Sinaloa, Gulf and Beltrán Leyva cartels.
Mexican authorities on Tuesday announced a top figure in the Knights Templar drug gang had been captured a day earlier in the state of Michoacan, west of Mexico City.
In a bloody feud, the Knights Templar broke off earlier this year from the La Familia Michoacana cartel. Saul Solis Solis, described as a primary figure in the Knights Templar cartel, was apprehended Monday. Mexican authorities had offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Solis is suspected of being instrumental in numerous attacks by La Familia on federal police stations in December 2009 and is also one of the main suspects in a May 2007 attack on Mexican army personnel which killed a colonel and four soldiers.
Since Mexico President Felipe Calderon announced the government’s armed offensive against the cartels in 2006, more than 35,000 people have been killed. Some estimates put the number closer to 40,000.