EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Police in Zacatecas have recovered the bodies of three missing fellow officers inside an abandoned van near the town of Sombrerete.

Authorities identified the officers as Fabian Grijalva, Miguel Saucedo and Oscar Vera. All were shot to death. So far in January, 11 police officers have been murdered in Zacatecas amid drug violence – an average of nearly two per day, Mexican media reported.

Also this week, Zacatecas state police officers found the bodies of two civilians hanging from a bridge along Mexican Highway 45. The bodies were in the same general area police back in November pulled down eight bodies hanging from trees and highway overpasses.

State authorities attribute the violence to brazen organized criminal activity. The president of Mexico earlier this month accused the cartels of “acts of provocation” after someone left a vehicle with 10 bodies inside in front of a state government building in Zacatecas on January 6.

“There is infighting among groups and it’s an act of provocation to go leave bodies” in public places, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in his daily news conference.

2020 file graphic courtesy Stratfor

Zacatecas lies in North-Central Mexico and its network of highways leading to virtually all corners of the U.S.-Mexico border is being disputed by several transnational criminal organizations including the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the Sinaloa cartel and various gangs from Tamaulipas, U.S. security experts have told Border Report.

The drug violence has been displacing residents of Zacatecas to border cities like Juarez and to the United States since at least 2019.