MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican authorities said on Tuesday they will aim to identify some 3,000 bone fragments, apparently human, found at the weekend in the northern state of Coahuila, where organized crime has been blamed for the loss of thousands of lives.
State prosecutors said they were sending the remains to a genetic laboratory to assess whether they could be linked to people who have disappeared.
According to government data, nearly 18,600 people have disappeared since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012.
In November, he signed into law a national commission dedicated to finding people who have disappeared. It will add some 469 million pesos ($25 million) to fund search efforts in its first stage.
Gang violence has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past decade and authorities are often unable to identify bodies found in mass graves.
VIDA, a Coahuila-based group representing 77 people whose relatives have gone missing, found the fragments in a field on Saturday after a tip-off about the location.
The group, accompanied by prosecutors, experts and members of the military, also found a metal barrel, gun casings, two buttons and a buckle.
VIDA spokeswoman Silvia Ortiz said similar previous discoveries indicated that victims’ bodies had been dismembered and burned for hours before the bones were broken apart with shovels.
State prosecutors said they could not yet determine how many people the bones belonged to, according to a spokesman.
Reporting by Sharay Angulo; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Paul Tait