Masked gunmen blocked traffic on a busy avenue in a Gulf of Mexico coastal city and dumped the bodies of 35 murder victims as horrified motorists watched, authorities said.
Veracruz state attorney general Reynaldo Escobar Perez said the bodies were left piled in two lorries and on the ground of an underpass near a shopping centre in the city of Boca del Rio.
Police had identified seven of the victims so far and all had criminal records and were linked to organised crime, Mr Escobar said. He did not say to what group the victims belonged to.
The Gulf and Zetas drug cartels have been locked in a bloody war for control in Veracruz state over the last year.
Motorists first began tweeting that masked gunmen in military uniforms were blocking Manuel Avila Camacho Boulevard in Boca del Rio and pointing their guns at civilians.
Local media reported that some of the victims were among prisoners who escaped from three Veracruz prisons on Monday, but Mr Escobar said he could not confirm that.
At least 32 inmates got away from the three Veracruz prisons. Police recaptured 14 of them.
Earlier, the Mexican army announced it had captured a key figure in the cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel that is sowing violence in western Mexico.
Saul Solis Solis, 49, a former police chief and one-time congressional candidate, was captured without incident in the cartel’s home state of Michoacan, Brigadier General Edgar Luis Villegas said during a presentation of Solis to the media.
Solis is considered one of the principal lieutenants in the Knights Templar, which split late last year from La Familia, a pseudo-religious drug gang known as a major trafficker of methamphetamine.
He is accused in various attacks on the military and federal police, including one in May 2007 that killed an officer and four soldiers, Brig Gen Villegas said.
Solis also is suspected of planting and harvesting drugs, managing clandestine labs manufacturing synthetic drugs and ordering attacks on police facilities in cities around the entire state.
Mexico’s attorney general had offered a 1.1 million US dollar reward for information leading to his capture.
Solis is a cousin of one of the Knights Templar’s main alleged leaders, Enrique Plancarte Solis.
Saul Solis served as director of public safety in the Michoacan town of Turicato in 2003-05 and ran for the federal congress in 2009 as a Green Party candidate, finishing fourth in his district with about 11,000 votes.