Three public safety officials were found murdered in northern Mexico, the Tamaulipas state Attorney General's Office said Thursday.

The bodies were discovered shortly after 11:00 p.m. Wednesday inside a bullet-riddled vehicle abandoned in the city of Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas,

The victims were identified as three senior employees of the Tamaulipas state Public Safety Office: director of police strategy Jose Luis Orozco, armory superintendent Arturo Alvarado and chief analyst Guillermo Hernandez.

Violence has flared in Tamaulipas after the recent arrests of two top leaders of the Gulf drug cartel, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez and Mario Cardenas Guillen.

Sixteen men were found slain last Friday, including nine whose bodies were left dangling from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo.

Authorities suspect all 16 were working for Los Zetas, a gang founded by army deserters who started off working as hired guns for the Gulf cartel before going into the drug business on their own account.

Since parting ways in 2010, the Zetas and the Gulf outfit have waged a fierce battle with each other for control of U.S.-bound smuggling routes in Tamaulipas. EFE