A series of burial pits containing the bodies of nine men and two women have been discovered just miles from the U.S. border in the Sonora region of Mexico.
Investigators used backhoes to excavate the clandestine graves on Sunday and Monday, reports The Associated Press.
The state prosecutor’s office said in a statement the bodies were “badly decomposed” and would be subject to genetic and specialized forensics tests to identify them.
“In addition to the bodies, clothing and other personal items were collected,” officials said in a news release.
Volunteer search teams, including relatives of disappeared people, led investigators to the pits located in a stretch of desert close to a landfill, reports CBS News.
These relatives often conduct their own searches based on the police being unable or unwilling to search for them.
More than 98,000 Mexican citizens are missing and many are thought to be killed by drug cartels. Cartel operatives often dump the bodies in shallow graves, in addition to burning and dissolving bodies.
Sonora has been locked in a bloody three-way turf battle between rival factions of the Sinaloa cartel and gangs allied with fugitive drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero.
On Tuesday, those gangs left three bodies — one hanging from a highway overpass — in three different cities in Sonora. The bodies were left near banners accusing authorities of protecting one of the Sinaloa factions.
In early February a mass grave was found in the same region, containing the charred skeletal remains of up to 50 people, reports FOX News 5.
And last November, another 14 clandestine graves were uncovered in Sonora.
In late 2020, the Sonora state legislature declared a public safety state of emergency due to the high numbers of missing persons resulting from a spike in organized criminal activity. At the time, more than 2,300 people were missing.
The Canadian government advises against all non-essential travel to the Sonora region of Mexico.
— With files from The Associated Press
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