The bodies of two photographers were found inside an abandoned vehicle in a rural area in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, officials said Monday.

Arturo Barajas Lopez, 46, and Jose Antonio Aguilar Lopez, 26, were tortured and shot dead, a Michoacan Attorney General's Office spokesman told Efe.

The bodies were found Sunday in the trunk of a vehicle with Federal District tags that had been abandoned in Tinaja de Vargas, a rural area outside the city of Ecuandureo.

Tinaja de Vargas, located about 145 kilometers (90 miles) from Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, is considered a dangerous area by police because drug traffickers operate there.

The victims took photographs at private parties, but Barajas also photographed traffic accidents for the Diario de Zamora newspaper, which publishes official statements from the Zamora city government and state government.

The two photographers were often seen offering their services in Zamora's plazas, Zamora Valley Press Association, or Aspevaza, president Juan Carlos Perez Chavez told Efe.

Barajas and Aguilar did not, however, belong to Aspevaza, whose members also work as journalists at newspapers in towns and cities near Zamora, Perez Chavez said.

No progress has been made in the investigation into the killings, which occurred during a weekend in which about 15 people died in drug-related violence in Michoacan, the AG's office said.

The federal government deployed about 1,000 Federal Police officers in Michoacan last week to fight drug traffickers.

The violence in the western state is being blamed on the Los Caballeros Templarios cartel, which was founded in March 2011 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana organization and now controls drug trafficking in Michoacan.

The cartel controls the traffic in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs in the western state.

The Federal Police's mission is to arrest Caballeros Templarios leaders Dionisio Loya Plancarte, Enrique Plancarte Solis and Servando Gomez Martinez.

The three suspects are believed to be hiding in the mountains around the city of Apatzingan.

Michoacan has 270 kilometers (168 miles) of Pacific coastline, making it an ideal location for drug traffickers smuggling narcotics from South America into the United States.

The drugs are then moved via the Pacific corridor or through central Mexico into the United States, the world's largest consumer of illegal drugs.

The violence over the weekend was not limited to western Mexico.

Ernesto Araujo Cano, a photographer who worked as a freelancer for the social section of Chihuahua's El Heraldo newspaper, was killed during a robbery in the northern state.

Mexico registered 27,199 murders in 2011, the highest number since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, or INEGI, said Monday.

More than 50,000 people, according to official figures, have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since late 2006.

The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which was founded by human rights activist and poet Javier Sicilia, puts the death toll from Mexico's drug war at 70,000. 

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