MEXICO CITY – Four decapitated and mutilated corpses were strung from a bridge in a popular getaway outside the Mexican capital on Sunday, the latest atrocity as the country battles an escalating drug war.
The bodies of the four young men were discovered early on Sunday, hung upside down by their feet from a bridge near a wealthy area of Cuernavaca, a leafy city about an hour outside Mexico City, where many of the nation's elite own homes.
The victims' genitals, index fingers and heads had been cut off, according to a statement from the attorney general's office in Morelos state, which includes Cuernavaca.
Their heads and genitals were found nearby, along with a handmade sign, the statement said.
"This will happen to everyone that helps the traitor Edgar Valdes," the placard read, referring to a leading drug capo whose real name is Edgar Valdez.
It was signed C.P.S., the initials for the South Pacific Cartel, a relatively new drug gang that has claimed responsibility for other gruesome killings.
Drug violence has escalated across Mexico as President Felipe Calderon goes after powerful cartels and as rival gangs fight over smuggling turf. More than 28,000 people have died in drug violence since Calderon took office in late 2006.
While much of the bloodshed is centered in northern Mexico, violence has climbed Cuernavaca, a once-quiet colonial city, since security forces killed a top drug lord, Arturo Beltran Leyva, in a shootout there in December.
His death kicked off a power struggle within his cartel, and rival gangs have been seeking to co-opt his territory.
Valdez, a Mexican-American known as 'La Barbie' due to his blond hair, is a leading contender to head the Beltran Leyva cartel.
A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office said the murdered young men appeared to have been small-time local drug dealers who had been killed by a rival gang.
In Ciudad Juarez, meanwhile, the notoriously violent city on Mexico's border with the United States, a gun battle prompted U.S. border patrol agents and police to shut a major thoroughfare on the El Paso side of the border for an hour and a half, the U.S. border patrol said in an email.
The battle left one suspected gang member dead and two federal police injured, local media said.