The beheadings are the latest flare-up in a war for drug shipment routes by at least three cartels, La Familia, Los Zetas, and the Sinaloa Cartel. The Guerrero state prosecutor, David Augusto Sotelo, said seven victims had been identified. Two were 17 and the rest were thought to be in their 20s.
The discovery on Saturday was the largest single group of decapitation victims found in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon began his offensive against the drug gangs. And it brought the death toll from 24 hours of drug violence in the Pacific Coast resort to 27.
The decapitated bodies in Acapulco are also the largest single group of decapitation victims to be found in one location.
Acapulco, in the state of Guerrero, has also been the scene of a bitter turf battle between rival drug gangs including three major cartels.
Police received a call alerting them to a burning vehicle near Plaza Sendero, a popular shopping centre. There they found a Nissan four-wheel-drive on fire, and four other abandoned vehicles, one with its motor running.
They also found the beheaded corpses and, some distance away, their heads, piled together. Nearby, two white posters with black lettering bore messages from a drug cartel. The bodies were covered in sand and appeared to have been murdered elsewhere.
While it is unknown which gang is responsible for the beheadings, handwritten posters at the crime scene are signed “El Chapo Guzman,” referring to Mexico’s most wanted man and leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel and crime syndicate.
Before Saturday's discovery, the largest single occurrence of beheadings was in Merida, the largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula, in August 2008, when 12 headless bodies were found. Most of the bodies had dragon tattoos. The heads were never found
Police did not reveal the messages left beside the bodies. But the Blog del Narco website posted photos of the scene and said the posters were written on behalf of Mexico's most wanted drug lord, Joaquin ''Shorty'' Guzman Loera, head of the Sinaloa cartel.
The website said one poster read ''To all citizens, extortion will no longer occur. Sincerely, Shorty Guzman'' and the other ''This will happen to anyone who tries to come into this turf''.
The beheadings signaled that the Sinaloa cartel, considered Mexico's most powerful, had moved into the city and would seek to restore order through strong-arm action to quell extortions and rampant crime.
Acapulco has been caught up in a vicious battle among remnants of the Beltran Leyva drug gang, the La Familia cartel based in the state of Michoacan and now the Sinaloa cartel, all battling for control of a key drug smuggling corridor through the resort.