ACAPULCO, Mexico – The image of this beach mecca has taken a new hit from Mexico's drug violence, with 27 people killed in less than a day, including 14 men whose bodies were found with their heads chopped off at a shopping center.
Acapulco has seen fierce turf wars between drug gangs, and the bloodshed is scaring some vacationers away even though little of the violence happens in tourist areas.
The decapitation slayings and most of the other killings that occurred in a stretch of just a few hours from Friday night into Saturday also occurred in non-tourism areas. But two police officers were shot to death on a major bayside avenue in front of visitors and locals.
The 14 headless bodies, and a 15th intact corpse, were found by police on a street outside a shopping center accompanied by written warnings from a drug cartel, authorities said.
Handwritten signs left with the bodies were signed by "El Chapo's People," a reference to the Sinaloa cartel, which is headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, said Fernando Monreal Leyva, director of investigative police for Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located.
The narco-messages indicated the Sinaloa cartel killed the 15 men for trying to intrude on the gang's turf and extort residents.
Mexico's drug cartels have increasingly taken to beheading their victims in a grisly show of force, but Saturday's discovery was the largest single group of decapitation victims found in recent years.
In 2008, a group of 12 decapitated bodies were piled outside the Yucatan state capital of Merida. The same year, nine headless men were discovered in the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo.
Also killed Saturday in Acapulco were the two police officers; six people who were shot dead and stuffed in a taxi, their hands and feet bound; and four others elsewhere in the city. Two police officers were wounded when armed men attacked a police post in the city's Emiliano Zapata district.
"We are coordinating with federal forces and local police to reinforce security in Acapulco and investigating to try to establish the motive and perpetrators of these incidents," Monreal said.
The wave of violence in one of Mexico's biggest resorts was condemned by the federal government.
"Reprehensible acts of violence such as these underscore the need to fight with determination against organized crime," a statement from the Interior Ministry said.
At least 30,196 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against cartels in late 2006.
Also Saturday, authorities said a small-town mayor was found dead in northern Mexico.
Saul Vara Rivera, mayor of the municipality of Zaragoza, was reported missing by family members Wednesday, Coahuila state prosecutors said in a statement. His bullet-ridden body was discovered Friday in neighboring Nuevo Leon state.
There were no immediate arrests.
At least a dozen mayors were killed nationwide last year in acts of intimidation attributed to drug gangs.