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26 More Bodies Found in Mexico; Bus Passenger Abductions Continue

Mexico City police guard a refrigerated truck carrying bodies that were found in mass graves in northern Mexico, after it arrived in Mexico City, Thursday April 14, 2011. Mexican investigators found a clandestine grave with six bodies in Tamaulipas state, bringing to 122 the number of bodies found in pits in a region near the U.S. border that is wracked by battling drug cartels, authorities said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Mexico City police guard a refrigerated truck carrying bodies that were found in mass graves in northern Mexico, after it arrived in Mexico City, Thursday April 14, 2011. Mexican investigators found a clandestine grave with six bodies in Tamaulipas state, bringing to 122 the number of bodies found in pits in a region near the U.S. border that is wracked by battling drug cartels, authorities said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)  (AP2000)

In a grisly Holy Week discovery, investigators have found 26 badly decomposed bodies in the northern Mexico state of Durango on Wednesday.It remains unclear whether these new bodies are connected to the mass graves uncovered last week in the state of Tamaulipas. Durango has become a battleground between the Zetas and Sinaloa drug cartels.

Acting on information that there were skeletal remains at the lot, state and federal authorities launched a joint operation to search the site in the state capital, also named Durango.

The search uncovered 26 bodies, but they were too badly decomposed to immediately identify them or their cause of death, the Durango state prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Prosecutors did not answer phone calls seeking to determine whether the bodies were found in multiple-burial pits, like the 145 bodies that have been pulled from mass graves in the border state of Tamaulipas.

While Mexican drug cartels frequently use such pits to dispose of the remains of executed rivals, many of those buried in the Tamaulipas mass graves are believed to have been passengers kidnapped from passing buses.

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In Tamaulipas on Wednesday, authorities reported they had rescued 68 people, including 12 Central American migrants, allegedly kidnapped by a drug cartel.

Some were allegedly pulled off buses or abducted from bus stations by the Gulf cartel.

Previous mass kidnap-killings in the area — like the case of the 145 bodies, and the August massacre of 72 migrants — have been blamed on the Gulf's main rivals, the Zetas.

The Tamaulipas state Public Safety Department said the group was rescued Tuesday after federal agents went to a neighborhood in the border city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, to check on a tip and ran into two armed men.

A statement from the department said the gunmen ducked into a house where the kidnap victims were being held.

It said there were eight Guatemalans, two Hondurans, a Salvadoran and a Panamanian among those freed.

Some of the victims told police they were taken by members of the Gulf drug cartel from buses heading to Reynosa's bus station or from the station itself. The route is frequently used by Central Americans seeking to enter the United States without documents.

While Mexico's drug cartels have been known to kidnap migrants to demand ransom from their relatives, authorities believe the Zetas may have staged some kidnappings as part of forced-recruitment efforts.

Last August, police in Tamaulipas found the bodies of 72 Central American migrants who had been shot to death while heading to the U.S. border. Authorities said two survivors reports that Zetas gunmen killed the migrants after they refused to work for the cartel.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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