In Mexico, 19 bodies found in truck as violence spreads in southern state

Forensic technicians work at a scene where authorities found several bodies linked to a gunfight between criminal gangs, in La Concordia

By Lizbeth Diaz and Stephanie Hamel

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexican security officials found the bodies of 19 men piled into the back of a truck, the local prosecutor's office said late on Monday, with the victims allegedly linked to a gunfight between a Guatemalan criminal gang and Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel.

Five of the men showed signs of gunshot wounds, and all were found in the back of a truck wearing dark clothing, tactical vests as well as firearm magazine clips, according to the prosecutor's statement.

The grim discovery in southern Chiapas state was made near the town of La Concordia, north of Mexico's southern border with Guatemala.

A government security source in Chiapas told Reuters the victims were Guatemalan members of a criminal group fighting for territorial control in the area.

"It's a criminal group that wants to get into the area. They're Guatemalans, and this is where they're facing off against several (criminal) cells, in this case from Sinaloa," the source said.

Guatemala's consulate in Chiapas is in the process of identifying some of the victims, as four to seven of the bodies are presumed to be Guatemalans, the Central American country's foreign affairs ministry told reporters.

The ministry said it was in touch with the Chiapas prosecutor's office, adding it will work to determine the nationalities of all of the victims.

Mexico's president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called the incident an "unfortunate confrontation" during his regular morning press conference on Tuesday, adding that both Mexicans and Guatemalans were among the dead.

In recent years, Chiapas has increasingly played host to gangland violence believed to be connected to criminal rackets including drugs and human smuggling.

"As a result of the increase in migrant trafficking in the area, the Sinaloa cartel, which previously controlled drug trafficking there, has become very strong," the Chiapas security source said.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Stéphanie Hamel, Additional reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Bill Berkrot)