Mexico mothers searching for loved ones turn up hidden graves

A Mexican Civil Forces police officer patrols in Tierra Blanca community, Veracruz State, Mexico on January 25, 2016 (AFP Photo/Alfredo Estrella) (AFP/File)

Coatzacoalcos (Mexico) (AFP) - Mothers searching for missing loved ones said they have found seven clandestine gravesites with remains of an undetermined number of people in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, one of the most afflicted by drug gang violence.

Marcela Zurita Rosas, a participant in the search, said Tuesday the graves were found this week in a plot of land in the city of Veracruz, in an area near a major seaport.

"On Monday, we found three graves with bones and on Tuesday four more were found with remains of people who were murdered," she said.

Rosas, who has received training in forensic anthropology and search techniques, is a member of a group called El Solecito. It was formed by mothers who decided to organize their own searches for missing loved ones after growing tired of waiting for the authorities to act.

Rosas is looking for her son, Dorian Javier Rivera Zurita, who disappeared in Cordoba, Veracruz in October 2012.

The latest finds were made on the same plot of land where five decapitated bodies were found in 2015.

Mexico's federal police are guarding the property while forensic specialists remove the remains and transfer them to Mexico City for DNA analysis, said Rosas, expressing hope that "many people find their loved ones and can bury them."

A police officer taking part in the investigation said the remains were in pieces but were from at least two people.

Veracruz has been the scene of a deadly turf struggle between two violent drug cartels: the Zetas and the Jalisco Nueva Generacion.

One of the most shocking cases involved the disappearance in January of five youths, one of them a minor, who were picked up by police and turned over to drug traffickers and allegedly murdered, their remains incinerated and ground up in a mill.

Clandestine burial grounds have proliferated in Mexico alongside a surge in violence that has claimed 166,000 lives nationwide since 2006, according to official figures. More than 27,000 people have gone missing during that period.

The government statistics do not specify how many of those violent deaths and disappearances are linked to drug trafficking.