Ciudad Juarez (Mexico) (AFP) - Eight people from the same family, including two minors, were kidnapped by masked gunmen and their decapitated bodies were found days later in northern Mexico, authorities said Wednesday.
The bodies were found after a ninth member of the Martinez family escaped Sunday's abduction near Casa Quemada, in the state of Chihuahua, and alerted the authorities, prosecutors said.
The disappearance triggered a massive military operation in the region and the bodies were found this week.
They were all men, with the youngest aged 15 and the oldest 42.
The family was traveling in a vehicle when it was kidnapped by armed men wearing masks and dressed in military-like fatigues, the Chihuahua state prosecutor's office said.
It is common for drug cartel operatives to wear military-like gear in Mexico.
The bodies of three men were found on a rural road on Wednesday. One was 18 years old and the two others were 25.
"People traveling on a trail found the victims," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
A day earlier, authorities recovered five other bodies that had been dumped in different parts of Casa Quemada.
Two of them were aged 15, two others 18 and the oldest 42.
Some witnesses said the family had gone to the mountain region to cut wood, while others claimed that the relatives cared for drug fields.
The mass murder took place in a region known as the Golden Triangle, which includes the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango, where drug cartels grow marijuana and opium poppies.
On July 18, 11 men traveling in three vehicles on a dirt road were killed in a remote area of Durango when they were apparently ambushed by armed civilians.
Five other men were wounded in the attack, which took place within the Golden Triangle.
US law enforcement officials suspect that Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is hiding in the region following his July 11 escape from prison.
The state of Chihuahua has endured much of the gruesome violence that has plagued Mexico in a drug war that has left tens of thousands of people dead nationwide since 2006, when soldiers were deployed to combat cartels.
The city of Ciudad Juarez, which borders Texas and is part of Chihuahua, was once considered the murder capital of Mexico, though the homicide rate has sharply fallen in recent years.
Much of the violence in Ciudad Juarez was attributed to turf wars between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels.