MEXICO CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - During a massive drug raid, Police in Mexico found dozens of skulls and other human remains surrounding an occult altar.
Mexican law enforcement conducted a large-scale raid on suspected drug traffickers in Tepito, a neighborhood in Mexico City, on Oct. 22. The raid targeted a cluster of properties thought to be connected to the Union Tepito cartel. A report Monday from NBC News described the raid's location as "a labyrinthine Mexico City slum complex."
Inside one suspected drug den, police found a slew of human remains, including 42 human skulls, 40 jawbones and 30 arm or leg bones.
In a photograph shared by local news, dozens of skulls can be seen in piles on the floor surrounding a round altar. On that altar was a wooden cross with a mask hanging on it, as well as a dark, cross-legged statue with what appears to be a pair of horns.
There are several baskets on either side of the altar, containing masks and dozens of wooden sticks of various sizes. Crosses and crucifixes can also be seen. To the right of the altar is a wall decorated with a pyramid, a goat's head and a hexagram.
Near the occult altar, police found a large stash of weapons and drugs, according to Fox News.
The origins of the skulls and other bones found during the raid are unknown. It is possible they were stolen from graveyards, or are the remains of former gang members.
On Sunday, Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum told the press that officials are performing DNA tests on the 42 newfound skulls and checking the DNA against a list of missing persons.
Also found was a jar with preserved remains of what could be an unborn baby. The Mexico City Attorney General's Office says it is still working to determine if those remains are human.
The discovery of the remains coincided with the arrest of 31 people on suspicions of drug activity.
However, a judge ordered the release of 27 of the suspects, claiming the arrests were illegal and that the five women arrested were harassed by the police. According to reports, the suspects' release crushed locals' hope that the raid would be a serious blow to the local drug trade.
Mexico president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador spoke of reviewing the suspects' arrest and release.
"Here the important thing is to see what the arguments were that were used to release these people," the president said.
He warned against jumping to conclusions, saying, "Let's not rush. If someone acted improperly, illegally, if there was corruption, we will condemn it."
The massive pre-dawn raid on Oct. 22 involved hundreds of police officers and marines. The operation uncovered two suspected methamphetamine labs, four kilograms of methamphetamine, 20 kilograms of cocaine, 2.5 tons of marijuana, five grenades, 20 guns, a rocket launcher and 1.5 million pesos, among other things.
An Oct. 23 report from Mexico News Daily alludes to "altars to Santa Muerte ... and narco-saint Jesús Malverde" found during the raid — but it is unclear if this reference includes the altar surrounded by human skulls.
Malverde, a folklore hero in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, is honored as the so-called patron saint for drug smugglers. He is venerated alongside Santa Muerte — a grim-reaper figure whose name means "Saint Death" or "Holy Death."
Devotion to Santa Muerte was condemned by the Vatican in 2013 as a "blasphemy against religion" and a "degeneration of religion."