MORELIA, Mexico – The burned bodies of seven people, including four individuals who were beheaded, were found over the weekend inside a vehicle abandoned on the side of a highway in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, prosecutors said.
The victims, all males, were discovered Sunday inside the vehicle at kilometer 4 of the highway that links the city of Yurecuaro to La Concepcion, a town in neighboring Jalisco state, the Michoacan Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.
The victims were tortured and shot, but it has not been determined whether they were burned while still alive, crime scene investigators said.
Army troops and Federal Police officers cordoned off the area and launched a search for the killers, but no arrests have been made.
The vehicle containing the bodies was reported stolen on Sept. 16, 2011, in Penjamo, a city in the neighboring state of Guanajuato, the AG’s office said.
The bodies were taken to the coroner’s office, where specialists will try to identify them.
Gunmen murdered seven other men on Sept. 22, abandoning their dismembered remains in an SUV.
The victims’ charred remains were found on the highway that links Venustiano Carranza, a city in Michoacan, to La Barca, a town in Jalisco state.
The Los Caballeros Templarios, La Familia Michoacana, Los Zetas and Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels have been fighting for control of Michoacan, which has 270 kilometers (168 miles) of Pacific coastline, making it an ideal location for drug traffickers smuggling narcotics from South America into the United States.
The Caballeros Templarios cartel was founded in March 2011 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana organization and deals in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs.
The cartel has been fighting rival gangs for control of turf and smuggling routes in Guerrero and Michoacan states, both of which are located on the Pacific.
Michoacan’s forests and mountains are used by drug traffickers to grow marijuana and produce synthetic drugs.