9 Bodies found along river in northern Mexico

Monterrey, Mexico, Apr 17 (EFE).- Nine bullet-riddled bodies were found on the banks of the La Silla River in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, state prosecutors said.

The bodies were discovered Monday afternoon in the Reforma district of the city of Juarez, Nuevo Leon Attorney General's Office spokesmen said.

The bodies were taken to the coroner's officer, where specialists will try to identify the victims, the AG's office said.

Nuevo Leon, one of Mexico's most violent states, is the scene of a turf war between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas.

After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas, considered Mexico's most violent criminal organization, went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.

The criminal organizations have been fighting for control of smuggling routes into the United States since 2010.

President Enrique Peña Nieto visited Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, on Tuesday and participated in the "Mexico por la Paz" (Mexico for Peace) conference.

The latest murder figures are "encouraging," the president said, referring to a report that showed a drop in drug-related killings since he took office.

A total of 4,249 drug-related killings occurred in Mexico from December 2012, when Peña Nieto took office, to March 2013, marking a drop of 14 percent from the comparable four-month period in 2011-2012, the Government Secretariat said in a report released last week.

Some 685 fewer murders occurred between Dec. 1, when Peña Nieto took office, and March 31, compared to the prior period, the secretariat said.

Drug-related killings also fell 17 percent compared to the August-November 2012 period, the report said.

The war on drugs launched by former President Felipe Calderon, who was in office from 2006 to 2012, left about 70,000 people dead, or an average of 32 per day, in Mexico, officials say.

Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, deployed thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to fight drug cartels.

Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has continued the strategy implemented by Calderon of taking on the cartels, but he has also called for bolstering intelligence capabilities and attacking criminal organizations' entire structures, not just kingpins.