36 bodies found in Mexican backyard

MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials said Saturday that 36 bodies were found buried in the backyard of a house in a city across the border from El Paso, Texas, and they believe that number represents the final tally.

Mexican federal agents began digging behind a Ciudad Juarez house allegedly used by the Juarez drug cartel two weeks ago after receiving an anonymous tip, officials said.

In the raid, investigators found 3,740 pounds of marijuana in the house. They initially found six dismembered bodies, but as excavations proceeded the tally rose.

On Saturday, the Attorney General's office said in a statement that a total of 36 bodies had been found in 16 pits in the house's yard. The last previous estimate had been 33. Officials did not provide details on the three new bodies.

The statement said investigators are done excavating behind the house in La Cuesta neighborhood and they believe there are no more remains to be found.

The remains date back about five years and all but three apparently are males. The statement said investigators were still trying to determine how the victims died and who buried the bodies.

Ciudad Juarez has been plagued by violence as Mexico's crackdown on powerful drug cartels stokes turf wars among traffickers that have been linked to hundreds of killings in the past two years.

Cartels frequently use ''safe houses'' in border cities to store drugs, house gunmen and dispose of dead rivals.

In January 2004, police unearthed a grave containing 12 bodies in a Ciudad Juarez backyard.

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