Authorities in the Mexican city of Uruapan have found the bodies of 19 people in three different locations, including some that were hanging from bridges.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the chief prosecutor for the western state of Michoacan – where Uruapan is located – said the incident appeared to be linked to rival drug gangs operating in the area.
“There is a turf war between the [local] cells of different criminal groups. They are fighting for territorial control over the production, distribution and consumption of drugs,” Adrian Lopez said.
“That leads to this type of incident, which alarms the population, and rightfully so,” he added.
Images carried by local media showed several bodies hanging from an overpass in Uruapan, alongside a threatening message printed on a large sheet of plastic – an intimidation tactic frequently seen in cartel turf wars.
Other bodies were found cut up and abandoned along the road, Lopez said.
“This kind of public, theatrical violence, where you don’t just kill, but you brag about killing, is meant to intimidate rivals and send a message to the authorities,” Alejandro Hope, a security analyst, told The Associated Press news agency.
“This kind of cynical impunity has been increasing in Michoacan,” Hope said.
The state is a flashpoint in the violent organised-crime wars that have swept Mexico in recent years.
Michoacan is where the government first deployed the army to fight criminal gangs in 2006 – a strategy that critics say has only led to an escalation in the violence.
Mexico has registered more than 250,000 murders since then, including a new record of 33,755 last year.
Leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, has promised to curb the violence using a strategy based around a newly launched National Guard, which is taking over the job of fighting drug cartels from the military and federal police.
However, his government has thus far failed to reduce homicides, which are on track to hit a new record, with 14,603 murders reported from January to June of 2019.