MEXICO CITY — Police discovered the bodies of 15 decapitated men outside a shopping mall in Acapulco early Saturday, bringing the death toll from a day of raging drug violence in the Pacific resort to 27, a top official said.
The headless bodies were found on a walkway outside the Playa Sendero shopping mall, about a mile from the sweep of high-rise hotels on the scenic bay that made Acapulco Mexico's first famous beach resort.
It was the largest single group of decapitation victims ever found in Mexico.
Guerrero state prosecutor David Augusto Sotelo told the official Notimex news agency that the daily death toll in Acapulco had risen to 27 victims.
A statement by the Public Security office in Guerrero state said police received a call at 12:44 a.m. alerting them to a burning vehicle near Playa Sendero, a popular two-year-old shopping center with an indoor ice rink.
When state police arrived, they discovered a white Nissan SUV on fire, and four other abandoned vehicles, one with its motor running, the statement said.
Police also found the beheaded corpses _ and, some distance away, their heads, piled together. Nearby, two white posters with black lettering bore messages from a drug cartel.
All the victims were male and appeared to be between 25 and 30 years old, the police statement said. The bodies were covered in sand and appeared to have been murdered elsewhere and dumped at the scene.
Sotelo said in the late afternoon that seven of the victims had been identified, and two of them were 17-year-old males.
Televisa, a national television network, said on its website that police in other part of Acapulco found four bodies were found inside a taxi. One of the vehicles at the Playa Sendero mall was also found to have a head in it. How the other homicides occurred was not immediately clear.
Police did not reveal the messages left on the signs at the scene of the beheadings. But the Blog del Narco website posted numerous photos of the scene and said the posters were written on behalf of Mexico's most wanted drug lord, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman Loera, head of the Sinaloa Cartel.
"To all citizens, extortion will no longer occur. Sincerely, Shorty Guzman," said one poster, according to the website. The other poster said, "This will happen to anyone who tries to come into this turf," it said.
Acapulco has been roiled in a vicious battle among remnants of the Beltran Leyva drug gang, the La Familia cartel based in the state of Michoacan and now the Sinaloa cartel, all battling for control of a key drug smuggling corridor through the Pacific resort.
The beheadings signaled that the Sinaloa Cartel, considered Mexico's most powerful crime group, had moved strongly into the city and would seek to restore order through strong-arm action to quell extortions and rampant crime.
Acapulco has become a major combat zone, with tit-for-tat executions, beheadings and public gunfights. A little more than three months ago, the resort was shaken by the broad-daylight abduction of 20 men arriving from Michoacan, ostensibly to begin a holiday. The bodies of 18 of the men were found in early November in a common grave.
Prior to Saturday's discovery, the largest single occurrence of beheadings was in Merida, the largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula, in August 2008, when 12 headless bodies were found. Most of the bodies had dragon tattoos. The heads were never found.
The bloodshed in Acapulco came a day after the mayor of Zaragoza in Coahuila state was found dead from gunshot wounds. Mayor Saul Vara was the 15th sitting mayor or mayor-elect murdered since the beginning of 2010.
Drug violence in Mexico has taken more than 30,100 lives since President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006 and deployed troops in a frontal battle against drug cartels. The pace of killings quickened last year when more than 12,400 people were slain.
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