The worst-hit regions were in northern areas near the 3,200-kilometre US border.

The government report said Chihuahua state was Mexico's hardest-hit state, with 6,757 people killed.

Drug arrests

More than 121,000 drug suspects have been detained since 2006, according to the document. It gave no figure for how many of those had been convicted.

in depth


  Hillary's spring break
  Mexico cartels join forces
  Children caught in drug war
  Life in fear in drugs city
  Paramedics on the frontlines
  Vigilantes 'on the rise' 
  Doubts cloud war on drugs
  US alert over Mexico killings

Fernando Gomez Montt, the interior minister, confirmed in a news conference that new figures had been passed on to legislators but gave no further details.

Violence has spiked since Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, launched a military crackdown on organised crime when he took office.

The government attributes the increase in violence to gangs lashing back at security forces and infighting among cartels whose leadership has been shaken by the arrest of senior commanders.

The US-backed deployment of more than 40,000 soldiers and federal police across the country has come under increasing criticism from opposition politicians and drug trade experts, who argue the crackdown has led to human rights abuses and done little to stem the flow of narcotics to the US.

In the latest violence, the bodies of six men were found on the side of a road on Tuesday in Cuernavaca, a city near Mexico's capital where authorities say a battle has erupted for leadership of the Beltran Leyva cartel. Its leader was killed in a battle with marines in December.

Police said the six men were tortured, then each shot once in the head.