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Dogs seen nibbling on human body parts at possible clandestine burial site in Mexico

Hunting for hidden graves in Mexico
Hunting for hidden graves in Mexico 02:45

After dogs were seen nibbling at human body parts, activists in western Mexico demanded Friday that authorities keep digging at what appears to be a clandestine burial site.

A group representing families of some of Mexico's more than 112,000 missing people said they were concerned police would leave the site on the outskirts of the city of Guadalajara due to a long holiday weekend.

The site had already been disturbed by dogs, and there were fears more evidence could be lost.

The Light of Hope is a volunteer search group that represents families of missing people in the western state of Jalisco. The group said 41 bags of human remains had been recovered at the site, which was discovered earlier this month after dogs were seen trotting off with a human leg and a skull.

"It is outrageous that the authorities, who can't keep pace, take the weekends and holidays off and don't work extra shifts to continue with this investigation," the group said in a statement.

Officials have not commented on how many bodies the bags may contain.

Cartel violence in the region

Guadalajara has long suffered from turf battles between factions of the Jalisco cartel, and hundreds of bodies have been dumped at clandestine sites there.

Drug cartels often put the bodies of executed rivals or kidnapping victims in plastic bags and toss them into shallow pits.

Dogs or wild animals can disturb the remains and destroy fragile pieces of evidence such as tattoos, clothing fragments and fingerprints that can help identify victims.

Animals have led authorities to bodies before in Mexico.

Last November, police in the southern state of Oaxaca found a dismembered human body after spotting a dog running down the street with a human arm in its mouth The discovery led investigators to find other parts of the dismembered body in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Oaxaca city, the state capital.

Days earlier, clandestine graves holding human remains were found in the central state of Guanajuato after neighbors reported to volunteer searchers that they had seen a dog with a human leg.

Weeks before, residents of a town in the north-central state of Zacatecas saw a dog running down the street with a human head in its mouth. Police eventually managed to wrest the head away from the dog.

In that case, the head and other body parts had been left in an automatic teller booth in the town of Monte Escobedo alongside a message referring to a drug cartel.

Drug cartels in Mexico frequently leave notes alongside heaps of dismembered human remains, as a way to intimidate rivals or authorities.

In June 2022, the bodies of seven men were found in a popular tourist region with warning messages written on their corpses referencing the Gulf Cartel, which operates mainly along the U.S. border to the north.

In April 2022, six severed heads were reportedly discovered on a car roof in Mexico with a sign warning others: "This will happen to anyone who messes around."

Shocking discoveries at mass graves

Mexican police and other authorities have struggled for years to devote the time and other resources required to hunt for the clandestine grave sites where gangs frequently bury their victims.

That lack of help from officials has left dozens of mothers and other family members to take up search efforts for their missing loved ones themselves, often forming volunteer search teams known as "colectivos."

Sometimes the scope of the discoveries is shocking.

In July, searchers have found 27 corpses in clandestine graves in the Mexican border city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, and many of them were hacked to pieces.

In February, 31 bodies were exhumed by authorities from two clandestine graves in western Mexico. Last year, volunteer searchers found 11 bodies in clandestine burial pits just a few miles from the U.S. border. 

In 2020, a search group said that it found 59 bodies in a series of clandestine burial pits in the north-central state of Guanajuato.

Mexico has more than 100,000 disappeared, according to government data. Most are thought to have been killed by drug cartels, their bodies dumped into shallow graves, burned or dissolved.

AFP contributed to this report.

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