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Mexican navy accuses 8 of being 'Zeta Killers'

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:47 PM EDT, Fri October 7, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Navy arrests 20 people, including 8 alleged "Zeta Killers"
  • Discovery of 32 bodies comes two weeks after authorities found 35 piled into trucks in the same region, authorities say
  • Navy operation comes just days after Mexico's president ordered troops to the region

Mexico City (CNN) -- The Mexican navy on Friday said it has arrested eight people in connection with two incidents in the past weeks where a total of 67 bodies were found in the coastal state of Veracruz.

The eight suspects are the so-called "Zeta Killers," referring to a video released on the Internet where a group of masked men say they are a vigilante group seeking to exterminate the Zetas cartel from Veracruz.

Mexican officials identified the men as not true vigilantes, but, instead, members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel.

"There are indications that they are linked to the killings of the 35 people" who were found last month on a principal road in the city of Boca del Rio, spokesman Jose Luis Vergara said.

Authorities also attribute the killing of 32 others whose bodies were found Thursday to the same group.

The Jalisco New Generation cartel is linked to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa cartel, security expert Eduardo Guerrero told CNNMexico.

In addition, the navy arrested 12 alleged members of the Zetas, Vergara said.

He described one of the Zeta members as the boss for the region, "who presumably was in charge of assassinating relatives of enemies," he said.

The state of Veracruz, once popular with tourists for its beaches and sea activities, has been rocked in recent months by a series of brutal killings as violent drug cartels fight one another for control of the area while simultaneously battling Mexican authorities.

The military operation in the state's capital city of Veracruz came just days after Mexican President Felipe Calderon ordered troops to the region.

Of the 32 bodies found Thursday, 20 were at a house in a residential neighborhood in Veracruz, while 11 more were found in another home in a nearby subdivision, a statement from the navy said. Another body was found in a third house.

The statement did not say what led authorities to the three homes.

More than 34,600 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Calderon began a crackdown on drug cartels in December 2006, according to government figures released in January. Other reports estimate that more than 40,000 people have been killed.

CNN's Umaro Djau and CNNMexico contributed to this report.

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