Mexican authorities have found at least 242 bodies in hidden graves in the eastern state of Veracruz that were discovered by mothers searching for their missing children, officials said Friday.
The bodies were found over a six-month period, with the first discovered in August near the city of Veracruz by the volunteer collective known as El Solecito, formed by relatives of those who have disappeared.
The collective turns over the digging of the graves to forensic experts.
A total of 124 graves have been located and after combing through nearly all of them, 242 skulls were found, a senior official of the prosecutor's office told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
Another person close to the investigation, who also asked not to be identified, said the graves contained "a lot of young women's clothes, credentials, shoes and garments that look like they belong to inner-city kids."
Veracruz, one of the most violent states in Mexico, is the scene of bloody disputes between the Los Zetas and Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug cartels.
According to a military source involved in the work with El Solecito, the victims "probably were buried by criminals in league with the local authorities." The source also asked to remain anonymous.
Elsewhere in Mexico, hidden graves have been found containing hundreds of bodies. In January, 56 bodies were found in a grave in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, where drug cartels vie for control of the routes toward the United States.