Eight homicides earlier this week in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato stem from a turf battle between rival drug cartels, officials said, noting that one of the gangs claimed responsibility for the slayings by leaving threatening messages next to five of the bodies. All of the victims were killed with firearms under very similar circumstances, state Attorney General Carlos Zamarripa Aguirre said. The most recent slaying occurred Thursday in the city of Acambaro, where a message was discovered that is “practically identical to the others that were found,” Zamarripa said. According to the state Attorney General’s Office, three people were killed in the municipality of Apaseo el Alto and one each in the cities of Celaya, Cortazar, Villagran, Acambaro and Salvatierra. Investigators found signs apparently signed by the Los Caballeros Templarios drug cartel at the crime scenes in Apaseo el Alto, Celaya and Villagran, officials said. The murders come approximately a month before Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit Guanajuato and a week after the discovery of 18 “drug messages” signed by Los Caballeros Templarios that ordered a rival gang to leave the state and avoid “generating violence” during the pontiff’s stay. Los Caballeros Templarios warned the Nueva Generacion cartel that “confrontations will be inevitable” and told its rivals to leave Guanajuato in peace. Neither gang, however, is based in that state, which has largely been spared the drug-related violence that has ravaged other parts of Mexico. The pope is scheduled to stay at the Colegio Miraflores in the Guanajuato city of Leon during his visit to Mexico. Benedict XVI will celebrate an open-air Mass in the morning on March 25 at the city of Silao’s Guanajuato Bicentenario Park, an outdoor venue that it is expected will accommodate about 750,000 people, who will need a ticket to enter, officials said. The pontiff is scheduled to visit three cities in Guanajuato state during his time in Mexico and will continue on to Santiago, Cuba.
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