Soldiers and police in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero are carrying out operations after hidden graves with dozens of bodies were found. Rival criminal gangs are being sought.
Police and soldiers have been chasing a gang leader and trying to contain the violence that has broken out after hidden graves with dozens of bodies were found earlier this week.
The fugitive gang leader, known as "El Tequilero," was believed to be wounded and hiding out with his kidnap victims in the mountains on Friday.
The southern state of Guerrero has seen violence over the course of the Mexican drug war in recent years. Rival cartels are fighting each other "without mercy," according to Guerrero state security spokesman Roberto Alvarez.
The area has been the scene of turf battles between rival drug gangs, which engage in extortion, kidnappings and killings. That rivalry has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands of deaths and disappearances in recent years. The largely rural, impoverished state had 1,832 reported homicides in the first 10 months of 2016.
Due to the lack of progress in bringing security in the state, locals have started their own "community police" vigilante efforts in order to try to quell the violence.
But authorities have expressed concerns that the groups who have fought for control may be taking sides in the gang wars. "The truth is, they are not really community forces, nor are they police. They are armed groups that unfortunately carry out acts…that generate more violence and confrontation, rather than help," said Guerrero Governor Hector Astudillo.
He told the groups to withdraw to allow police and soldiers to do a proper investigation. "The army, the state police, they can't be there with armed groups," Astudillo said. "Withdraw, and we will enter immediately. But for the two to be there at the same time, that is not possible."
Confidence in the authorities has been damaged by the ongoing violence and in particular the case of 43 male students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College who went missing in Iguala in 2014. New testimony earlier this year suggests federal officers at least allowed local police to abduct some of the 43 students and may have actively participated themselves. The bodies of the students have never been found.
kbd/jm (AP, AFP)