MEXICO CITY (AP) — Suspected drug traffickers drove two trucks to a main avenue in a Mexican Gulf coast city and dumped 35 slaying victims during rush hour while gunmen stood guard and pointed their weapons at frightened motorists.
The gruesome scene Tuesday in the downtown of Boca del Rio was the latest escalation in drug violence in Veracruz state, which sits on an important route for drugs and Central American migrants heading north.
The Zetas drug cartel has been locked in a bloody war with drug gangs for control of the state.
Veracruz state Attorney General Reynaldo Escobar Perez said the bodies were left piled in two trucks and on the ground at an underpass near the city’s biggest shopping mall and its statue of the Voladores de Papantla — ritual dancers from Veracruz state.
Police had identified seven of the victims so far and all had criminal records for murder, drug dealing, kidnapping and extortion and were linked to organized crime, Escobar said. He didn’t say to what group the victims belonged.
Motorists caught in the horrifying scene Tuesday afternoon posted warnings on Twitter that masked gunmen in military uniforms were blocking Manuel Avila Camacho Boulevard and pointing their guns at civilians.
“They don’t seem to be soldiers or police,” one tweet read. Another said, “Don’t go through that area, there is danger.”
Escobar said police were reviewing surveillance video recorded in the area.
Local media said that 12 of the victims were women and that some of the dead men had been among prisoners who escaped from three Veracruz prisons on Monday, but Escobar said he couldn’t confirm that.
At least 32 inmates got away from the three Veracruz prisons. Police recaptured 14 of them.
Earlier Tuesday, the Mexican army announced it had captured a key figure in the cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel that is sowing violence in western Mexico.
Saul Solis Solis, 49, a former police chief and one-time congressional candidate, was captured without incident Monday in the cartel’s home state of Michoacan, Brig. Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas said during a presentation of Solis to the media.
Solis is considered one of the principal lieutenants in the Knights Templar, which split late last year from La Familia, a pseudo-religious drug gang known as a major trafficker of methamphetamine.
Drug violence has claimed more than 35,000 lives across Mexico since 2006, according to government figures. Others put the number at more than 40,000.
In northern Mexico, the army announced the detention of two more suspects in a casino fire that killed 52 people last month in the northern city of Monterrey.