IMAGE: Mexican soldiers
Guillermo Arias  /  AP
Mexican soldiers search vehicles at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Tijuana on Friday.
updated 1/6/2007 8:38:51 PM ET 2007-01-07T01:38:51

The bound and gagged bodies of nine people have been found in a shallow grave in the violence-plagued state where President Felipe Calderon kicked off his crackdown on drug trafficking, state officials said Friday.

An anonymous call sent police to an abandoned warehouse Thursday in Uruapan, 180 miles (290 kilometers) west of Mexico City in Michoacan state. There, officials removed a loose section of flooring and discovered the mass grave, said Magdalena Guzman, a spokeswoman for the state prosecutors' office.

Officials on Thursday found the bodies of three men and one woman, their feet and hands tied together and their mouths covered with tape. The bodies of five other men were uncovered on Friday. All were in advanced stages of decomposition, indicating the victims were killed some time ago.

Guzman said the female victim had been identified by family members as 29-year-old Perla Soledad Almanza Rodriguez. No suspects were in custody.

Last month, Calderon sent 7,000 troops to his native state of Michoacan. Uruapan itself has been the site of some of the most brutal slayings in Mexico, including a Sept. 6 attack in which gunmen dumped five severed human heads onto a bar dance floor.

Drug gangs are blamed for more than 2,000 murders nationwide in 2006 and have left a particularly bloody trail in Michoacan and in the northern border city of Tijuana, where more than 300 people were slain last year.

Police guns seized for inspection
Tijuana police stayed off of patrols on Friday after soldiers sent by Calderon to crack down on drug gangs and corruption there seized most of their guns for inspection.

Tijuana Public Safety Secretary Luis Javier Algorri said that without arms it was too dangerous for the force of 2,000 police to patrol the streets of the city where 13 officers were shot dead last year.

"This is an unfortunate situation because it leaves agents defenseless and does not allow them to serve the community," Algorri said in a news conference.

Calderon sent 3,300 soldiers and federal police into Tijuana on Tuesday to hunt down drug gangs. The soldiers swept police stations and took police guns for inspection on Thursday amid federal investigators' allegations that a corrupt network of officers supports smugglers who traffic drugs into the United States.

On Friday, soldiers monitored those leaving and entering Tijuana, while federal and state police manned checkpoints within the city limits. The federal attorney general's office also said that officials had arrested seven alleged kidnappers in the border city of Mexicali and freed three of their victims.

Opposition politicians have expressed doubt that Calderon's highly publicized campaign will have much of an impact. Calderon took office on Dec. 1 promising to crack down on drug gangs and other organized crime.

His predecessor, Vicente Fox, also designated thousand of agents to fight drug trafficking, arresting several alleged kingpins during his six-year term. But those actions appeared to spark more violence as other traffickers battled to take over the smuggling routes of those killed or detained.

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