MEXICO CITY – MEXICO CITY (AP) — Authorities found the remains of at least 38 people in a series of pits and scattered on the ground at a suspected drug-gang dumping site near the industrial hub of Monterrey in northern Mexico, an official said Friday.
Investigators were using heavy equipment to search for more bodies at the rural site outside Mexico's third-largest city, local media said. Photographs showed charred spots on the soil suggesting some bodies may have been partially burned.
Nuevo Leon state Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza said officials still had to inspect three more pits for bodies. He said 36 of the victims found so far are men and two are women.
The state attorney general's office in Nuevo Leon state, where Monterrey is located, said more heavy equipment was being brought in to search the ground and pits where the remains were found.
The bodies were too badly decomposed for immediate identification, the office said.
The clandestine grave site, which was discovered Thursday, was believed to have been used by drug gangs that operate in the area.
The Mexican army did not offer any immediate information on how the site was detected.
Nearly 25,000 people have been killed in Mexico since the government launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.
Cartel hit men have been known to use mass dumping sites to dispose of their victims. In late May, police in the central Mexico tourist town of Taxco discovered 55 bodies in an abandoned silver mine.
Mexico's Defense Department said in a statement Friday that soldiers had seized 57 pounds (26 kilograms) of explosives from gunmen killed in two clashes with soldiers in the remote mountains of the border state of Chihuahua.
State authorities first reported the shootout between troops and assailants Thursday saying eight gunmen had been killed near the rural town of Madera, about 145 miles (230 kilometers) south of the U.S. border but gave no other details.
The Defense Department said nine gunmen were killed in two clashes and that troops had also seized army uniforms, seven satellite phones, two ATVs and ten cars.
Last week, drug gangs introduced a new threat to Mexico's drug war, detonating their first successful car bomb. The attack killed a federal police officer and two others in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua's largest city.
Speaking at a military academy graduation ceremony Friday, President Felipe Calderon praised the army's role in the drug fight and called the drug cartels "the greatest threat to the well-being and progress of Mexican families, and the greatest danger to the liberties that our country's founders gave their lives to obtain for us."
Calderon said that "our determination is not only not to take a single step backward, but to carry on decisively with this fight, to persevere in the effort until we reach the victory that Mexico deserves."