Mexican Police
A Mexican police officer takes pictures at a crime scene (Reuters)

The homicide rate in Mexico shot up by 22% in 2016, in what was the highest rise since the height of the country's drug war.

And in the border state of Baja California, the murder rate increased by 42%, and by 30% in the border state of Chihuahua, the Associated Press reported.

Figures released by the Mexican government today (3 February) show a worrying increase in the number of killings, with 20,798 homicides in 2016 compared with 17,034 in 2915.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope told AP: "It could be a variety of things. It could involve the spreading fragmentation of criminal groups, it could the reactivation of conflicts between Sinaloa (cartel) and others, it could be the expansion of the Jalisco cartel."

In addition, elections held in 12 states in the country during the year could also account for the rise in the murder rate, with suggestions the transition period over elections destabilises areas where police "are no longer credible for the criminals," Hope added.

Despite the Sinaloa Cartel's leader Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman currently in the US facing 17 federal charges against him, the gang has continued to operate with little change in Mexico.

Across the border, new US President Donald Trump said he had threatened to send US troops into Mexico to deal with "bad hombres down there" unless Mexico did more to tackle the problem itself.

However, Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto denied Trump had made such a threat during a phone call between the pair, in what is becoming an increasingly tense relationship.