A Mexican vigilante group with links to a drug cartel has vowed to "eliminate" members of the country's leading narco-trafficking gang.
A video posted on YouTube shows five large men identifying themselves as "Los Mata Zetas" (The Zeta Killers), referring to the Zeta cartel that has been responsible for thousands of drug-related killings in recent years.
The video comes days after the gruesome discovery of 35 bound, semi-nude, tortured bodies on a freeway in the Gulf state of Veracruz.
The 'Zeta Killers' spokesman in the video claims responsibility, saying that all of those who died, including 12 women and two minors, were linked to the Zetas cartel. The bodies were dumped on the freeway in the midst of the city's rush hour.
The Associated Press has further details of the statement the group released:
"We are the armed wing of the people, and for the people," says a man with a ski mask, who is seen in the video sitting at a table with four other masked associates and reading from a prepared statement. "We are anonymous warriors, with faces, but proudly Mexican." The speaker said his group was prohibited by its ethical code from carrying out kidnappings or extortion.
The Zeta Killers have been linked to another Mexican drug cartel, known as New Generation (Gente Nueva). The tactics of the two groups are seen as similar, and a banner left at the scene of the mass body-dumping in Veracruz threatened the Zetas and bore the initials "G.N."
CNN reports that U.S. officials with knowledge of the group said Gente Nueva was not a vigilante group but a facade for the Sinaloa cartel, which at the time has been battling the Zetas and Gulf Cartel in Veracruz.
The Wall Street Journal reports that other cartels, most notably La Familia, based in the state of Michoacan, have tried to use the Zetas' reputation for brutality as a way of rallying popular support and gaining new adherents to fight them. La Familia recently suffered a major split after the group made peace with the Zetas.
Though The Zeta Killers expressed their admiration for the work of the Mexican authorities in battling cartels, the Mexican government has rejected the involvement of vigilante groups.
The Washington Post quotes a statement from Mexico's Interior Department:
"While it is true that the criminal organization known as the Zetas should be defeated, that must occur by legal means and never by methods outside the law."
Watch the full statement from the group below (in Spanish):