A mass grave containing the remains of at least 166 people has been discovered in the coastal state of Veracruz in Mexico, according to CNN.
On Thursday, after what has been more than a month-long search following a tip, officials were able to locate the site through the use of drones and ground-penetrating radar. Inside the mass grave, investigators unearthed the skulls of at least 166 people, along with a further 200 pieces of clothing, and 144 identity documents and other personal belongings.
Veracruz Attorney General Jorge Winckler Ortiz said authorities were told about the existence of the grave last month.
Evidence at the site of the grave leads investigators to believe the deaths may have occurred a few years ago. Winckler estimates they have been there for at least two years.
Because of the nature of the crime and the fact that it is an ongoing investigation, authorities were not able to divulge any further details about who the people are, or how they may have ended up in a mass grave.
The area, along with that of Nuevo León, Guerrero, Jalisco, and Michoacán, has sadly seen this scale of major crime before, with mass graves being discovered fairly often in the states.
Cartels such as Los Zetas, El Cartel del Golfo, and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación all have heavy presences in these states, where regular law-abiding civilians fall prey to their criminal activity. Other regular victims of the cartels include immigrants from South American countries headed to the U.S. who “refuse to be recruited,” according to the BBC.
There is no confirmation as yet that the latest mass grave discovery is linked to any of the cartels.
At this stage, authorities are working on identifying the victims in an effort to return their remains to their loved ones. Genetic analyses of the remains is being matched up to databases containing missing persons reports. They further have plans to release photographs of the items of clothing and other personal belongings found in the grave, in the hopes that someone will be able to identify them and lead to the identification of some of the deceased.
Winckler has reiterated his call for families to report any missing loved ones to authorities.
A mass grave discovered in 2017 yielded the remains of more than 300 people in Colinas de Santa Fe, Veracruz. The area is a regular “dumping ground” for drug traffickers.
The total number of people reported missing in the country that have yet to be found totals over 300,000.