MEXICO CITY: Mexican police have found the chopped up bodies of nine men in 18 plastic bags inside a van in the south of the country, a statement said Friday.

The grisly discovery came amid a wave of suspected drug-related murders, which has killed some 14,000 people since a military crackdown on Mexico's drug cartels began almost three years ago.

Local police said they found nine heads and body parts in half of the bags, and the torsos in the rest.

The discovery was made late Thursday in a mountainous area of the coastal state of Guerrero -- a major hub for drug trafficking and home to the resort of Acapulco.

The vehicle contained two posters carrying alleged threats from La Familia, a powerful drug cartel based in the neighboring state of Michoacan.

"La Familia doesn't kill innocent people. Those who die have to die," said one of the messages.

La Familia burst into the headlines in October 2006 when an armed commando linked to the cartel entered a bar and tossed five severed heads onto the dance floor.

It launched an offensive against authorities in July in Michoacan, the home state of President Felipe Calderon, when it claimed responsibility for the killing of 12 federal police officers.

Calderon has deployed more than 50,000 soldiers nationwide since he took office in December 2006 as part of a controversial crackdown on organized crime.