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Narco Blog: 13 Bodies Found in Zitacuaro, in Mexican state of Michoacan(Warning Gruesome Pictures)

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The bodies of 13 people were found early Monday in Zitacuaro, a city in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, state officials told Efe. The bodies were discovered around 5:00 a.m. outside a 24-hour convenience store in the La Mangana neighborhood, where the state highway that links Zitacuaro to the city of Huetamo passes, a spokesman for the Michoacan Attorney General’s Office said.

The victims, who appear to have been tortured, were shot in the head and piled on top of each other.

“Narcomessages” threatening a drug trafficker identified only as “El Guero,” who apparently dominates drug sales in the cities of eastern Michoacan, were found at the crime scene, the AG’s office said.

Investigators did not say which criminal organization the messages were aimed at.

The victims have not been identified, but investigators suspect they may have worked as informants for El Guero.

Last week, authorities found the charred remains of five people inside an SUV parked on a rural road in Michoacan.

The five corpses correspond to suspected drug cartel hit men killed during an hour-long turf battle between rival gangs in the Tierra Caliente region, which straddles the states of Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico, the AG’s office said in a statement released last Thursday.

The gunmen exchanged fire and hurled grenades during the shootout in the impoverished, crime-ridden town of Tiquicheo, located some 95 kilometers (60 miles) from the state capital of Morelia.

Michoacan has been plagued by a wave of drug-related violence blamed on a turf war between the La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios drug cartels.

La Familia Michoacana was once the dominant gang in Michoacan, but it has been badly weakened by the arrests and killings of several of its top leaders and the creation of the Los Caballeros Templarios splinter group.

Michoacan, coveted by drug gangs for its Pacific coastline and home to clandestine marijuana and opium poppy fields, is a key entry point for South American cocaine, as well as chemicals used to manufacture synthetic drugs at laboratories tucked away in the mountains.

Conflicts pitting the cartels against each other and the security forces have claimed more than 50,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office and militarized the struggle against the drug gangs.

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