A Mexican search group said Wednesday that it found 59 bodies in a series of clandestine burial pits in the north-central state of Guanajuato and that more could still be excavated. The head of the official National Search Commission, Karla Quintana, said excavations began a week ago based on a tip from relatives of missing people.

Given the deficiencies of local law enforcement in Mexico, relatives of missing people in many states have formed their own search groups, collecting information and exploring possible body dumping sites and clandestine graves.

Quintana called it “a sad and terrible discovery.” She added that there were more “possible positive sites” where more bodies could be found, and that work would continue.

“The vast majority of the bodies, in which there is still some tissue or other sign, would appear to be young people, very young, possibly even teenagers,” Quintana said. Pending expert confirmation, between 10 and 15 women are among the victims, the AFP reported.

The bodies were extracted over the last week from 52 pits at a property on the outskirts of the Guanajuato city of Salvatierra. The scene was considered dangerous enough that the army and National Guard provided security for the excavations.

Guanajuato has the largest number of homicides of any state in Mexico, and has been the scene of bloody turf battles between the Jalisco cartel and local gangs backed by the Sinaloa cartel. In July, gunmen burst into an unregistered drug rehabilitation center in Guanajuato and killed 24 people.

It was the largest such burial site found to date in Guanajuato, though bigger clandestine burial sites have been excavated in the past in other parts of Mexico.

Last month,  after officials announced some human fragments were found in Guanajuato, Reuters reported some family members whose relatives are missing believed their lost loved ones could be buried at the location.

“If our family is not found then we will find others that are missing. It’s a feeling of satisfaction so that they (victims in graves) can return home and for the family to have peace,” one local said.

Another person looking for a missing relative called the city “a cemetery.”

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