Image: Forensic workers in Tuncingo, Mexico
Bernandino Hernandez  /  AP
Forensic workers remove a body which was buried in Tuncingo, Mexico, on Wednesday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 11/4/2010 5:41:32 AM ET 2010-11-04T09:41:32

Forensic investigators searched for more hidden graves Thursday near where they had already found 18 badly decomposed cadavers.

The bodies were found in a mass grave that was first disclosed in a YouTube posting — a video saying the victims were from a tourist group kidnapped in Acapulco a month ago.

Guarded by soldiers and marines, the investigators used long metal poles to probe the ground in a coconut palm grove in the community of Tuncingo, just east of Acapulco. An anonymous tip led police to the bodies of two men there on Wednesday.

Police did not yet know if the bodies found were from the 20 men abducted at gunpoint Sept. 30 while visiting Acapulco from neighboring Michoacan state, Fernando Monreal, investigative police chief for Guerrero state, said Wednesday night.

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Officers began digging at the site early Wednesday after receiving an anonymous phone call alerting them to two bodies dumped on an empty lot.

Hours earlier, a video appeared on Youtube in which two men — their hands apparently tied behind their backs and answering questions from an unseen interrogator — say they killed "the Michoacanos" and buried them in the area.

The two bodies reported in the tip were found wearing the same clothes as the pair seen in the video and were lying on top of the mass the grave.

A sign left between the two men read: "The people they killed are buried here." It was signed by Acapulco's Independent Cartel, or CIDA — a little known drug gang that has been claiming responsibility for killings in the area over the last two months.

Monreal said authorities had not confirmed the identities of the bodies dumped on top of the grave.

In the video, the two men say they killed the "Michoacanos" in an act of revenge against La Familia, a powerful drug cartel based in Michoacan state.

The families of the 20 missing men, many of them related to each other, have said they were mechanics in the state capital of Morelia who each year saved up money to take a vacation together. Among those abducted was the 17-year-old son of one of the mechanics.

Mistaken identity?
Guerrero state investigators say they corroborated that the men worked as mechanics and had no criminal records. Investigators also say they could find no evidence linking the men to any gang and have speculated the group may have been targeted by mistake.

Hundreds of the men's relatives and friends have twice marched in Morelia to demand federal authorities investigate the case.

On Sunday, about 1,000 people marched to urge authorities to keep searching for their loved ones.

"To the people who have them, we ask them to have mercy on them, on us," Katy Rodriguez, a niece of seven of the missing men, said in a message sent to the captors through the media.

The kidnapping was one of the biggest blows yet to Acapulco, which has seen an increase in drug-gang shootouts, beheadings and kidnappings. Even Acapulco Mayor Jose Luis Avila Sanchez recently urged residents to stay indoors after nightfall, an extraordinary pronouncement in a city where the economy is built on nightclubs, bars and restaurants.

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Mass killings have become more frequent amid raging, drug-fueled violence in Mexico. In the most horrifying attack, 72 migrants were massacred in northern Mexico near the border city of Matamoros in August, apparently because they refused to work for the Zetas drug gang.

Videos like the new posting on YouTube have become a new dimension of terror to Mexico's bloody drug war. Cartels are increasingly releasing video of kidnapped people admitting at gunpoint to crimes ranging from extortion to murder. It is often impossible to determine the veracity of confessions given under duress.

In the boldest case, a video emerged less than two weeks ago showing the kidnapped brother of Patricia Gonzalez, the former attorney general of northern Chihuahua state. In the video, the brother, Mario Gonzalez, says his sister protected a street gang tied to the Juarez cartel and was behind several murders.

Handcuffed
Gonzalez, who had been kidnapped days earlier, made the statement while sitting handcuffed in a chair surrounded by five masked men pointing guns at him. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Patricia Gonzalez denied any links to drug traffickers and said she is sure her brother spoke out of fear.

Another video made by drug traffickers and released in July led to the arrest of a prison warden who allegedly allowed inmates allied with the Sinaloa cartel to temporarily leave the Gomez Palacio prison to murder rivals. The warden allegedly even lent the inmates guns and vehicles to carry out the killings.

The Zetas drug gang, a rival of the Sinaloa cartel, first drew attention to the prison scandal by kidnapping a local police officer and forcing him to describe the scheme on a video released on the Internet.

Meanwhile, U.S. border police found a sophisticated drug smugglers' tunnel the length of six football fields linking Southern California with Mexico and arrested two people, authorities said Wednesday.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said the tunnel ran between warehouses in Otay Mesa, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. It measured 1,800 feet and was equipped with a rail system, lighting and ventilation.

Agents recovered more than 25 tons of marijuana in seizures related to the investigation in both California and Mexico and arrested a U.S. citizen and his Mexican wife.

"This wasn't a mom-and-pop operation, or in this case a husband and wife operation. This is clearly organized crime at work. This was the cartels," said John Morton, director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Mexico Under Siege

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  1. A tattooed man stands on a hill overlooking Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, on Dec. 20, 2008. Cartels have launched a wave of violence against the government of President Felipe Calderon since it began a crackdown on organized crime in 2006. According to the attorney general’s office there were 5,370 drug-related homicides in the year to Dec. 2, 2008. That is double the 2007 number. Juarez alone saw an estimated 1,600 such slayings. And the deaths can be horrific – victims have been tortured, beheaded or dissolved in acid. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Inside the car where Marisela Granados de Molinar was killed on Dec. 3 alongside her boss, Jesus Martin Huerta Hiedra, a deputy prosecutor in the Mexican city of Juarez. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Federal police search cars at an impromptu checkpoint near the U.S. border on Nov. 10, 2008. In the late 1980s the United States stemmed the flow of cocaine from South America through the traditional trade routes in the Caribbean. Looking for alternate ways into the U.S., South American cartels began to run drugs through Central America and Mexico, and now the vast majority of illegal drugs flow through this corridor. Facing the recent slew of deaths and corruption scandals among all levels of the police, the government has deployed 45,000 soldiers to fight the cartels as well. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Missing person signs litter the walls of local police stations in Juarez. Kidnapping is integral to the drug-running business and the general lawlessness accompanying it. Before the latest surge in drug violence, Juarez was infamous for another gruesome string of crimes – the kidnapping and murder of young women. There have been 508 such incidents since 1993, according to the state government. When the bodies do show up, many have been raped and mutilated. Many believe that most of these deaths are related to gang initiation rituals. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. El Diario newspaper's Armando Rodriquez was murdered outside his home while warming up his car on Nov. 13, 2008. The 40-year-old crime reporter was killed in front of his 8-year-old daughter who he was about to drive to school. Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since 2000, 25 have been killed there. In addition, seven journalists have disappeared since 2005. Many reporters refuse to put their bylines on stories, and many newspapers have stopped covering the drug gangs altogether. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The body of El Diario's Rodriquez -- killed in his car outside his house while his family watched in November 2008 -- is taken away in a body bag by an ambulance. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A U.S. official stands beside a recently discovered cache of drugs on the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border crossing. In December, the United States delivered $197 million to Mexico, the first stage of a $400-million package to buy high-tech surveillance aircraft, airport inspection equipment, and case-tracking software to help police share intelligence. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Men and boys shoot heroin in a "picadero," or shooting gallery, in Ciudad Juarez on the banks of the Rio Grande, just across from the United States. Thousands of picaderos, some serving as many as 100 customers a day, are said to exist in Juarez alone. Drug use and addiction among Mexicans has exploded recently, with the number of known addicts almost doubling to 307,000 in six years. Most experts assume these numbers dramatically undercount the problem. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrons and workers mingle at Hollywood strip club in downtown Juarez. With American sex tourism on the decline due to the dramatic increase in murder and violence, the few remaining strip clubs have become common hangouts for narcotics traffickers, or ‘narcos.’ (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A man walks in front of 24-hour funeral parlor. The death industry is booming in Juarez where an estimated 1,600 people were murdered in 2008. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Neighbors and family of slain Alberto Rodriquez, 28, watch and cry as the authorities descend on the crime scene. Rodriguez was killed in his car outside his house while his family watched. (Shaul Schwarz) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A bus carrying women and children drives by the site where David Rodriguez Gardea, 42, and Antonio Bustillos Fierro, 38, were gunned down on Nov. 12, 2008. The agents had led an investigation resulting in the arrests of gang members suspected in dozens of murders. The cartels are killing police officers at an unprecedented rate, especially at the border. Gangs have been breaking into police radio frequencies to issue death threats. "You're next, bastard ... We're going to get you," an unidentified drug gang member said over the police radio in the city of Tijuana after naming a policeman, Reuters reported recently. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A U.S. border patrol officer stands behind bullet-scared bullet-proof glass on the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border. Although border agents do not get shot at often they are self-described "sitting ducks." The cartels and drug traffickers send messages of terror through such examples. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. The casket of David Miranda Ramirez, 36, is carried by fellow police at his funeral on Nov. 13, 2008. An estimated 50 of Ciudad Juarez’s police officers were killed in 2008 in incidents blamed on drug gangs. Many officers have quit out of fear for their lives, often after their names have appeared on hit lists left in public. While some police have been killed, others are being lured into cooperating with the cartels. Theses gangs have “enormous economic power, and behind that, enormous power to corrupt and intimidate,” says Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Family of slain police officer Miranda Ramirez mourn his loss at his funeral. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Interactive: Mexico's drug-trafficking landscape

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