NINETEEN bullet-riddled and charred corpses have been found close to the US-Mexico border in an area notorious for cartel turf wars.
Authorities said the victims were found in two burning cars on a dirt road near the town of Camargo, just across the Rio Grande from Texas.
Four people were found dead in one vehicle and another 15 in the other, said the Tamaulipas state prosecutor's office.
Initial evidence suggests all 19 had been shot and then set on fire.
Because no bullet casings were found at the scene, investigators believe they may have been killed at another site before the cars were dumped on the country road and torched.
A local official said the killings happened on Friday, but residents had been afraid to report it until the next day.
Camargo is a major smuggling route for drugs and migrants across the border to the US.
Organised crime groups have waged violent territorial disputes for control of the strategic crossing point which is worth millions.
The identity of the victims has not been established, and autospies will be complicated by the charred condition of the bodies, a source from the prosecutor's office said.
Some local media claimed they were undocumented migrants who were slaughtered by people traffickers or in an ambush by a rival gang.
Guatemala's government was alarmed by rumours that migrants crossing Mexico on the way to the US were among the dead.
Its embassy in Mexico is working with state and federal authorities to help identify if any Guatemalan citizens were involved.
Camargo, a town of 15,000 people, is near the edge of territory historically controlled by the Gulf cartel for decades
But in recent years a remnant of the infamous Zetas known as the Noreste cartel, which controls part of nearby Nuevo Leon, has tried to take over.
In January last year some 21 bodies, most burned, were found in a number of vehicles near the neighboring town of Ciudad Mier.
Days later the Mexican army killed 11 alleged gunmen in the area.
A year earlier in January 2019, 24 corpses were found, of which 15 were charred, in the town of Miguel Aleman.
In August 2010, a group of 72 kidnapped migrants were killed in San Fernando, in Tamaulipas.
Authorities said the massacre was perpetrated by the Zetas cartel, one of the most powerful at the time.
Tamaulipas, on Mexico's Gulf coast, is the shortest route to the United States from Central America.
But it is also the most dangerous because criminal gangs kidnap, extort and murder migrants.
Cartel violence has plagued Mexico since 2006, killing more than 300,000 people since.
The country recorded 34,523 assassinations in 2020, a slight decrease on 2019's record high of 34,608.
Earlier this month gunmen slaughtered at least nine people at a wake in Guanajuato for a man who was murdered the day before.
The Jalisco New Generation cartel are battling the local Santa Rosa de Lima gang for control of the area.
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