EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Chihuahua state authorities are confirming the death of a Sinaloa cartel cell leader in a new drug massacre in the western mountains of the state.

Eight bodies have been recovered and one survivor was taken to a hospital after a gun battle near the mountain town of Guachochi, the state Attorney General’s Office said. Two burned vehicles, a Chevrolet Silverado and a Nissan Frontier, were also found at the scene. Three of the bodies had been incinerated, the AG’s Office reported.

A host of state police officers and Mexican National Guard troops “are engaged in an operation in response to the armed conflict reported outside of Guachochi on Wednesday afternoon,” the AG’s Office said in a statement. The show of force will continue “with the intent of restoring public safety and peace” to the region.

Mexican news media citing unnamed police investigators reported the leader of a Sinaloa cartel cell blamed for a shooting at a church earlier this month was among the dead in the roadside ambush. The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office on Thursday confirmed one of the victims was Melquiades Diaz Meza, 49, a.k.a. “El Chapo Calin.”

Melquiades Diaz Meza, a.k.a. “Chapo Calin” (State of Chihuahua)

Chihuahua Attorney General Cesar Jauregui had blamed Diaz for the June 5 shooting at the Santa Anita church. The local priest called on drug traffickers to leave peaceful residents alone and said the violence forced dozens of residents from that community near Guachochi to flee as well.

El Chapo Calin had been arrested in 2021 on drug and weapons charges but later released by a judge, according to Mexican news media.

Diaz and one of his sons were among the dead, El Heraldo de Chihuahua reported. Wednesday’s gun battle was the result of a feud between two factions of the Sinaloa cartel fighting for drug trafficking routes, illegal logging and other organized criminal activities, El Diario de Chihuahua reported.

Wednesday’s mass killings took place along a dirt road near a landfill, the AG’s Office said; the bodies were taken to the medical examiner’s office for identification.

Other than “El Chapo Calin,” the medical examiner identified four other bodies as Mario M.L., 54, Hermogenes F.L., 37, Oscar Javier D.A., 28 and Juan Macrino O.R., 23. The other three bodies were consumed by flames and their identification will take longer, Mexican authorities said.