At least 45 bags with human remains were found in a ravine in the western Mexican state of Jalisco during a search for eight people reported missing last week, local authorities said Thursday.
"Forty-five bags with human remains have been extracted that belong to both male and female people," the state prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The gruesome discovery was made on Tuesday at the bottom of a 40-metre (120-foot) ravine in the municipality of Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara, a large industrial hub.
The authorities had launched a search for two women and six men, all aged around 30 years, who had been reported missing since around May 20.
The missing person reports for each one had been made separately on different days, but investigators found that they all worked at the same call centre.
The call centre was in the same area where the human remains were discovered.
Forensic experts have yet to determine the number of victims or their identities.
Initial inquiries suggested the call centre could have been involved in illegal activities, and local media reported that the authorities had found marijuana, a cloth and a cleaning rag with apparent blood stains as well as documents on possible commercial activities.
But relatives of the missing accused the authorities of seeking to portray the victims as criminals.
In recent years, human remains have been found in bags or unmarked graves in different areas of Jalisco.
In 2021, in the municipality of Tonala, in Jalisco, about 70 bags with the remains of 11 people were found.
And in 2019, the bodies of 29 people were found in 119 bags in an unpopulated area of Zapopan.
Another case that sparked numerous protests in Jalisco was the disappearance in March 2018 of three film students, whose remains were dissolved in acid.
Also in 2018, media reported that three Italians disappeared, allegedly handed over by police to the Jalisco New Generation cartel, to whom they had allegedly sold faulty machinery.
The Italians have not been found despite massive searches by state and federal law enforcement.
According to local media, in the first two months of this year alone, the remains of 33 people were found in five makeshift graves in the Guadalajara area.
The Jalisco New Generation cartel operates in the state and is one of the most powerful organized crime groups in Mexico, and is embroiled in disputes with other drug syndicates.
Mexico has recorded more than 340,000 murders and some 100,000 disappearances, the majority attributed to criminal organizations, since the launch of a controversial military anti-drug offensive in December 2006.