MEXICO CITY, April 14 (UPI) -- Mexico arrested 16 police officers who allegedly protected drug-gang hit men believed to have killed at least 145 people whose bodies were found in mass graves.
"The government promises ... to get to the bottom of these regrettable and deplorable events and put an end to police corruption," Attorney General Marisela Morales said Thursday in a statement.
Seventeen suspected gang members tied to the Los Zetas drug cartel have been arrested so far in the killings near San Fernando, Tamaulipas, about 90 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, Morales said.
Los Zetas, considered Mexico's most violent criminal cartel, allegedly includes corrupt former federal, state and local police officers. It was founded by a small group of Mexican army Special Forces deserters.
The killings of people kidnapped from passenger buses last month was the second mass murder in the state of Tamaulipas since the Aug. 24, 2010, massacre of 72 illegal immigrants heading north in search of work in the United States.
Many of the passengers' bodies were found in mass graves April 6. Twenty-three more corpses were found Thursday, bringing the total so far to 145, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Morales declined to offer motives for the massacre or to identify the victims.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who began using the army to fight traffickers in 2006, has not spoken publicly about the killings, The New York Times said.
Morales said her office would pay $1.2 million for information leading to the arrest of local Zetas leader Salvador Alfonso Martinez and Omar Martin Estrada, in charge of one of the cartel's cells.
More than 36,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006.