At least 60 bodies found in secret mass grave 'in middle of town' in Mexico: 'People must have known'

Search team believes that the local residents of the Salvatierra town would have known about the burial site

Namita Singh
Friday 30 October 2020 12:25 GMT

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The bodies of at least 59 individuals have been found in mass graves at a property in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato.  

Guanajuato is one of the most active drug cartel battlegrounds in the country, and the state that records the highest number of murders a year.

"The vast majority of the bodies, in which there is still some tissue or other sign, would appear to be young people, very young, possibly even teenagers," Karla Quintana, the head of Mexico's National Search Commission (CNB) was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

What makes the discovery particularly unusual, the authorities said, was that it came not in a deserted stretch of the countryside, but within the town of Salvatierra. 

"This place is in a neighbourhood," Ms Quintana said in an interview with W Radio. "To get there you have to pass homes, you have to pass streets ... the people [must have] known."

Authorities were first tipped off about the possible location of the graves about two weeks back by an informant who was looking for a missing loved one. State and federal security institutions have been working together for the past eight days at the site.  

Among those hoping to find any sign of their loved ones was Leticia Valencia, mother of a missing man, Jose Manuel Fabian Valencia. Waiting outside the police perimeter, Ms Valencia told AP: "What I want to do is to be allowed to go inside, to see if I can recognise any of the clothing they have excavated.”  

Her son had disappeared along with a friend in 2018 and she has not heard from him since.  

This week, photos of the excavation at the vacant lot were circulated on social media and among the items pulled from the graves was a boot, which Ms Valencia said she thought might be that of her son.  

"He could be here," she said.

Ms Quintana said that while 59 bodies had been found, there was evidence indicating that more may be buried at the site. The goal is to recover the bodies, identify them and return the remains to their families, she said.

The CNB head added that a significant number of the victims were women.  

The scene was considered dangerous enough that the army and National Guard provided security for the excavations.  The search’s state commissioner, Hector Diaz informed the AFP that a team of 80 people carried out 52 excavations, that eventually led to the discovery of the bodies.  

Guanajuato has been shaken by bloody turf wars between the powerful rival cartels Jalisco New Generation and Santa Rosa de Lima.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday that the situation in Guanajuato is "very difficult” adding that the deployment of the National Guard in the state at least allowed the authorities to reach areas that were previously inaccessible due to the sway of organised crime.

Additional reporting by agencies

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