Peasants find 6 bodies in western Mexico

Morelia, Mexico, May 5 (EFE).- Peasants found a mass grave containing six mutilated bodies outside Tingambato, a city in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, state officials said.

The remains of the victims, three of whom had their hands cut off and one who had an arm hacked off, were discovered on Saturday, the Michoacan Attorney General's Office said.

The clandestine grave was found in El Chupadero, an area outside the community of Paranguitiro, the AG's office said.

Crime scene investigators gathered evidence at the site and removed the bodies from the shallow grave.

The bodies are those of three men and three women, the AG's office said, adding that one of the female victims had her arm hacked off.

The unidentified victims were killed about a month ago, investigators said.

Tingambato is located about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Morelia, the state capital.

The city is in the Meseta Purepecha, a region mainly inhabited by Purepecha Indians, the largest indigenous group in Michoacan.

Investigators are looking at the possibility that the killings were carried out by gunmen working for Los Caballeros Templarios, a drug gang that operates in the state.

The Caballeros Templarios gang was founded in March 2011 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana cartel and deals in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs.

The cartel has been fighting rival gangs for control of turf and smuggling routes in Guerrero and Michoacan states, both of which are on the Pacific.

Michoacan's forests and mountains are used by drug traffickers to grow marijuana and produce synthetic drugs.

Los Caballeros Templarios is suspected of carrying out murders, staging kidnappings and running extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies in Michoacan's 113 municipalities, officials said.

French food giant Danone and Mexican pharmaceutical company Grupo Saba have decided to close their plants in Michoacan due to the high level of crime and move their operations to the less violent states of Queretaro and Jalisco, officials said.

Snack food company Sabritas, a unit of U.S. soft drinks and snack foods giant PepsiCo, was the target of several attacks in Michoacan last year.

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.