Oven for Burning Bodies Found in West Mexico

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Mexican soldiers uncovered six clandestine graves in Michoacan state, along with a site where victims were tortured, executed and burned in makeshift ovens, a tactic that was also used to destroy evidence by Colombian paramilitary organization the AUC.

On August 21, Mexican armed forces discovered at least six clandestine graves containing dismembered and charred human remains in Tuxpan, Michoacan state. At least three makeshift wood-burning ovens used to incinerate bodies were found close to the graves, as Vanguardia reported.

Authorities learned of the torture and burial site after capturing two men suspected of extortion earlier in August, who possessed cell phone videos of bodies being dismembered and burned.

Although the state of the 150 bone fragments discovered makes identification difficult, El Universal reported that preliminary information indicated the bodies may belong to local businessmen who were recently reported missing.

InSight Crime Analysis

Michoacan is disputed territory for three of Mexico’s main criminal organizations: the remnants of the Familia Michoacana, their offshoot the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios), and the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG). Michoacan has been the scene of some particularly gruesome acts of violence, such as the tossing of five severed heads into a nightclub in 2006, the killing of 12 federal police officers in 2009, and the torture and murder of two young paramedics in June this year.

The use of makeshift ovens to burn the bodies of victims was a tactic used by Colombian paramilitary groups in the early 2000s. The former leader of the Catatumbo block of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), Ivan Laverde Zapata, alias “El Iguano,” confessed that he ordered the construction of cremation furnaces to avoid the discovery of mass graves by authorities. He admitted to burning the bodies of over 100 people over the course of several years in Norte de Santander province. Verdad Abierta reported that the practice was also used by paramilitaries in Antioquia to eliminate evidence following executions.

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