In Brief

Mexican police find 166 human skulls in mass graves

Pits in Veracruz believed to contain remains of victims of cartel violence

Mexican police have uncovered 32 mass graves containing at least 166 human bodies believed to belong to victims of cartel violence, officials have announced.

Investigators made the gruesome discovery in the eastern state of Veracruz last month, following an anonymous tip-off, Reuters reports.

Using drones and ground-penetrating radar, police were able to pinpoint the secret graveyard. Following weeks of painstaking examination of the thousands of bones piled into the pits, authorities say that they believe the bodies had been there for around two years.

Addressing a news conference yesterday, State Attorney General Jorge Winckler said that the pits - the precise location of which he declined to reveal - were on a key trafficking route for cartels smuggling drugs north off the border into the US.

Veracruz has “long been racked by violent crime”, as rival gangs fight for dominance of the lucrative narcotics trade, says Reuters.

As well as “bloody turf battles between the Zetas and Jalisco drug cartels” , the state has also suffered “waves of kidnappings and extortions”, Time magazine reports. Criminal lawlessness has been exacerbated by rampant bribery and corruption in local government.

In 2016 and 2017, the remains of a total of at least 253 people believed to be victims of cartel violence were found at various mass graves near the state capital, and further secret burial sites have been found across Mexico.

Winckler said that personal effects retrieved from the newly discovered graves included 114 identification documents. The families of missing people would be allowed to view the personal items recovered from the graves and to submit their DNA for testing against the remains, he added.

“More than 5,000 people are believed to have gone missing between 2010 and 2016 in the state of Veracruz alone,” USA Today reports, citing statistics from the Washington DC-based Congressional Research Center. 

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