MEXICO CITY — Three dead bodies were found decorated with the colors of Mexico’s national flag just ahead of Independence Day in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, authorities said Thursday.

A Veracruz prosecutor’s office employee said the corpses were wrapped mummy-style in plastic and tape, with severed heads stuffed into straw party hats painted red and green.

Such hats are typically worn during the country’s Sept. 15-16 independence celebrations.

The bodies were found Wednesday in a park in the state capital, Xalapa, according to the employee, who was not authorized to be quoted by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Authorities also reported that two men and a woman were shot dead at a bar Tuesday in the central state of Guanajuato.

Masked attackers sprayed the victims with bullets as they sat at a table, wounding two other women and another man who was in serious condition. Officials initially said five were killed but later revised the toll.

Guanajuato state prosecutor Carlos Zamarripa said the killings in Irapuato appeared to be a directed attack against the men.

Guanajuato has long been spared the worst of the drug gang violence seen in other parts of Mexico, but in recent months insecurity has spiked as the state becomes a hotspot for other crimes such as the theft of diesel and gasoline from government pipelines.

On Thursday, state prosecutors reported a fleet of tanker trucks carrying stolen fuel had been located in another city in Guanajuato, Salamanca.

The office said the nine trucks with 54,000 gallons (205,000 liters) of fuel were found in an empty lot.

Fuel theft has become a serious problem in Mexico as thieves grow more daring and more willing to attack police and soldiers.

On Wednesday, police in the state of Puebla arrested seven people who allegedly threw rocks at officers trying to confiscate two pickups carrying stolen fuel.

Townspeople in Puebla have increasingly defended fuel thieves, who are said to pay residents to assist them.

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MARK STEVENSON
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