Authorities in Mexico have exhumed 32 bodies and nine heads from several secret graves in the southern state of Guerrero.
The remains were unearthed this week between Tuesday and Thursday from 17 holes near the village of Pochahuixco, part of the municipality of Zitlala, a violent region plagued by drug violence, officials said Thursday.
“The discoveries are terrible,” said Roberto Alvarez, a state security official in Guerrero. He added that the remains of the victims, which included 31 men and one woman, were taken to the state capital, Chilpancingo, to be identified.
Soldiers are going through the region looking for other possible hidden graves.
Criminal gangs often bury their victims in secret graves and authorities regularly find human remains hidden in pits across the country. Seventy five bodies were found from over three dozen hidden graves between late 2013 and early 2014 on the border between the western states of Jalisco and Michoacan.
The state of Guerrero, however, is one of the country’s more violent states and a major site of opium poppy plantation, with the Guerreros Unidos and Los Rojos drug cartels battling over turf.
The gangs are also engaged in other criminal activities than drug dealing, such as extortion.
Last weekend, at least 24 people were killed in the state. The bodies of nine men, including five that were dismembered, were found on a roadside. A dozen people were also last week abducted in another part of the state that has been hit by a rash of mass kidnappings for ransom.
A high-profile case of abductions and possible murder involving 43 students also occurred in Guerrero.
The Iguala case put the spotlight on the rash of disappearances in Mexico, where some 28,000 people have been reported missing since 2007, in addition to tens of thousands killed in connection with drug violence.