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17 bodies found on 'drugs route'

Soldiers have unearthed at least 17 bodies buried in several clandestine graves in the Mexican state of Guerrero and are searching for more, authorities said.

Guerrero state investigative police director Fernando Monreal said soldiers found the bodies in the town of San Miguel Totolapan.

The town is in a region known for marijuana and opium production and as a shipment route for cocaine.

This is the third time in less than a year that authorities have discovered mass graves in the Pacific coast state, which has seen a spike in violence since rival factions of the Beltran Leyva cartel began fighting over territory following the December 2009 death of capo Arturo Beltran Leyva.

In November, authorities found a grave outside Acapulco with 18 bodies. The cadavers were from a group of 20 travellers kidnapped while visiting the resort city from neighbouring Michoacan state. Two of the men remain missing.

In May, police discovered 55 bodies inside an abandoned silver mine on the outskirts of Taxco that had become a dumping ground for apparent victims of Mexico's drug violence.

Also on Tuesday, police found four bodies dumped along a highway connecting Acapulco to Mexico City. The four men had been fatally shot, Guerrero state prosecutors said in a statement.

The bodies were found about 30 miles from the spot along the same highway where four state police officers were ambushed and killed on Monday. The officers were guarding state police commander Humberto Velazquez, who was travelling in a different car and was not hurt in the attack.

Another four people, including a couple fatally shot inside the hotel they managed in the coastal town of Atoyac de Alvarez, were killed on Tuesday in three separate attacks in Guerreo, prosecutors said.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a military offensive against the country's drug gangs shortly after taking office in December 2006.

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