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One killed every half hour in Mexico drug-related violence

Jose Luis Gonzalez / Reuters

Children look at a puddle of blood at a Nov. 4, 2011, crime scene in Ciudad Juarez. Tens of thousands of people have abandoned Ciudad Juarez, a city wrecked by Mexico's drug violence.

One person died in drug-related violence every half hour in Mexico last year, amounting to 48 executions per day on average, according to the Mexican Excelsior newspaper, a sign that the violence surrounding the country's powerful cartels continues unabated.

A total of 12,903 were murdered in the first nine months of 2011, Excelsior and other newspapers reported, sourcing data from the country's Attorney General's office (link in Spanish).

Nationwide, 47,515 people have been killed since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon deployed thousands of troops to drug hot spots, through to September 2011, the Attorney General's Office said on Wednesday. The deaths include those involved in the drugs trade, civilians and members of security forces fighting the cartels, according to Excelsior.

The most dangerous city in the country during the first nine months of 2011 was Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, on the border with the United States, and the second-most dangerous was Acapulco, Guerrero, on the western coast of the country.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that two decapitated bodies had been found inside a burning SUV at the entrance of one of Mexico City's most expensive shopping centers, feeding fears that conflict was seeping into parts of society previously thought safe.

Police recovered the mutilated bodies before dawn off a toll highway at a shopping mall entrance in the heart of the Santa Fe district that's a haven for international corporations, diplomats and the wealthy. The heads and a threatening message were dumped a few yards away, Mexico City prosecutors said in a statement.

By F. Brinley Bruton, London-based senior writer and editor

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.