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Three bodies have been found in the Mexican state of Baja California, the FBI said Friday, days after two Australians and an American went missing during a surfing trip in an area hit by cartel violence.

Authorities used a pulley system to hoist what appeared to be lifeless bodies covered in mud from a shaft on a cliff high above the Pacific Ocean, AFP journalists noted.

“We confirm that three deceased individuals have been found in Santo Tomas, Baja California,” said a statement from the FBI’s San Diego, California, office, without revealing the identities of the victims.

Australian brothers Jake and Callum Robinson and their American friend Jack Carter have not been seen since April 27.

They were vacationing near the coastal town of Ensenada in the northwestern state of Baja California.

But the brothers’ mother, Debra Robinson, said in a Facebook post that they never arrived at their planned accommodation.

Santo Tomas, where the FBI reported the discovery of the three bodies, is about 30 miles southeast of Ensenada.

More than a dozen emergency responders, including federal agents, state police, forensic experts and military personnel, were working on the difficult-to-access cliff area Friday.

– Spiral of violence –

Navy personnel and prosecutors searched a cliff area in Ensenada earlier on Friday, according to City Hall.

Baja California state authorities said Thursday that three Mexican nationals were being questioned in connection with the disappearances.

“A white pickup truck was located as well as other evidence,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The investigation was coordinated with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Australian and US consulates, the report said.

An Australian Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the department is in regular contact with the families of the missing Australians and that it “recognizes that this is a deeply distressing time.”

“The Australian Embassy in Mexico City is working closely with the Australian Federal Police and local authorities regarding the two Australians reported missing in Mexico,” the spokesperson said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has described the disappearances as “very concerning”.

“We certainly hope that these brothers are found safe, but there is great concern that they are missing,” he told Australian television.

Baja California is known for its inviting beaches, but is also one of Mexico’s most violent states due to organized crime groups.

Two other Australian surfers, Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman, were murdered and their bodies burned in November 2015 while traveling through the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa.

In March 2023, suspected Gulf Cartel members kidnapped four Americans in the northeastern city of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas. Two of them were killed.

The spiral of criminal violence sweeping Mexico has killed more than 450,000 people and left more than 100,000 missing since the federal government launched a controversial anti-drug operation in 2006.