Authorities in Mexico have unearthed 24 bodies in clandestine graves in regions beset by drug cartel violence, officials said Friday.
Six bodies were discovered on Thursday buried in a lime tree orchard on the outskirts of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, in the southwestern state of Guerrero, local officials said.
The 18 other were found in eight pits near the town of La Barca, at the border between the western states of Jalisco and Michoacan, an agent from the federal prosecutor's office told AFP.
The state of Michoacan is a bastion of the Knights Templar drug cartel, which has been involved in turf wars against the Jalisco New Generation gang.
Investigators initially found nine bodies near La Barca last weekend and the last two were removed on Friday, the agent said on condition of anonymity. Some of the bodies had been mutilated.
One of the victims is a woman while four of the remains were mere bones. Authorities with search and rescue dogs were still combing the rural area for any other corpses on Friday.
The grim discovery stems from an investigation into the November 3 disappearance of two federal police officers.
Authorities have detained 22 municipal police officers from the Michoacan town of Vista Hermosa in connection with the federal agents' disappearance.
Some of the suspects confessed to having "detained and handed over" the two federal officers to members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel.
The federal government has deployed thousands of troops to Michoacan to crack down on the Templars, whose reign of terror has prompted several towns to form "self-defense" vigilante groups.
More than 77,000 people have been killed in drug cartel-related violence in Mexico in the past seven years.
Vigilantes have also taken up arms in mountain towns in the neighboring state of Guerrero that have endured killings, extortion and kidnappings by criminal groups.
On the coast, the once fabled resort of Acapulco has become one of the deadliest cities in Mexico amid bloodshed between local gangs.
On Thursday, five men and one woman were found buried in the rural village of El Salto, part of Acapulco's municipality, next to a burning car that contained another body, the state prosecutor's office said.
A police official who requested anonymity said the victims appeared to have been shot dead days ago.
Dumping victims in mass graves is one of the hallmarks of criminal gangs in Mexico.
In August, authorities found the bodies of 13 young people near Mexico City, three months after they were kidnapped from a bar in the capital.
In one of the most gruesome cases, the bodies of 193 migrants were found buried in a ranch in San Fernando, a town in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, in 2011.© (c) 2013 AFP