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Twelve bodies, seven of which were decapitated, were found in the Mexican tourist resort of Manzanillo over the weekend as the war between brutal drugs gangs spreads into areas previously untouched by violence.

Seven decapitated bodies were found on Saturday (21 January) in an abandoned taxi on the main road leading from the town on Mexico's Pacific coast, which attracts thousands of foreign tourists a year.

"They were mutilated, apparently decapitated, and one of the victims was a woman," the port city's police chief Carlos Heredia told AFP.

The next day five more bodies were found, dumped in a forest.

The killings are believed to be linked to a feud between rival drugs cartels, whose struggle for dominance until recently had not spread to the country's popular tourist resorts.

Heredia said that a note found in the abandoned vehicle with the bodies was signed by the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which has been blamed for a surge of murders in the state of Colima, where Manzanillo is located.

Earlier in January, nine people were killed, including three foreign nationals, by shootings in the usually peaceful resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

The discovery of the bodies in Manzanillo comes after six people were killed in drugs linked shootings in the town on 17 and 18 January.