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Mexican boy beheaded and disembowelled four men

New details have emerged about a teenage boy who confessed to beheading and then disembowelling at least four men in the Mexican resort of Cuernavaca.

Edgar Jimenez Lugo has gone on trial accused of working as a hitman for one of the country's most notorious drug cartels.

The teenager, who is known by the nickname 'El Ponchis' (the cloak), was taken into custody in December, shortly after the mutilated corpses of his alleged victims were found hanging from local bridges. He was 14 years old at the time of his arrest.

Prosecutors now believe that the boy was first recruited by the Beltran Leyva organisation, which controls much of central Mexico, at the age of 11. He turned 15 in May, and is now facing charges of murder, kidnapping, drug-dealing, and the possession of illegal weapons. The trial is taking place behind closed doors because of the defendant's age. It has sparked widespread soul-searching over the so-called "war on drugs", declared by Mexican President Felipe Calderon in 2006.

More than 35,000 people have since died in drug-related violence, including roughly 1,500 children and teenagers. Around 4,000 juveniles have been detained by authorities. Jimenez faces around three years in prison under policies designed to rehabilitate young offenders.

Born in San Diego, to illegal immigrant parents who were also crack cocaine addicts, Jimenez is officially an American citizen. However, he spent most of his childhood in a working class suburb of Cuernavaca, a popular weekend retreat a couple of hours south of Mexico City. When he was 11 years old, he allegedly began working for Julio de Jesus Radilla Hernandez, a representative of the Beltran Leyva cartel widely known as 'El Negro'.

In December police, acting on a tip-off, arrested Mr Jimenez and two of his sisters as they prepared to board a flight to San Diego, where their mother still lives. The youth was then paraded before television cameras and claimed responsibility for having slit the throats of the four men, while under the influence of marijuana.

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