Authorities found the decapitated bodies of nine men in the southern state of Guerrero on Sunday, and some of the victims have been identified as soldiers.

State Public Safety Secretary Juan Salinas Altes said the bodies were found on a major boulevard in the state capital, Chilpancingo, just a few hundred yards from where the state governor was scheduled to participate in a traditional religious procession later in the day.

Salinas Altes said experts are still trying to identify the bodies, but he said a still-undetermined number of them are soldiers. An army base is located nearby.

Mexico has been hit by a rising wave of drug-fueled violence, and officials estimate that more than 5,300 people have died in organized-crime-related slayings so far in 2008.

Mexican drug cartels have increasingly taken to chopping the heads off their victims, who include rival traffickers or lawmen. On Aug. 28, a dozen decapitated bodies were found outside Merida, the capital of Yucatan state.

Two other severed heads were found on the same boulevard in Chilpancingo on Dec. 7 alongside a sign reading: "Soldiers who are supposedly fighting crime, and they turn out to be kidnappers. This is going to happen to you."

Scores of police and soldiers have been killed since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels in late 2006. While Mexican criminal gangs once appeared to steer clear of confrontations with the army, they now often openly attacking soldiers.

In May 2007, gunmen linked to a drug gang killed five soldiers in an ambush in the neighboring state of Michoacan.

Also Sunday, federal police reported they had captured three suspected cartel hit men in the border city of Tijuana. The suspects allegedly had six assault rifles and about 3,500 rounds of ammunition at the home where they were caught.