The body of Gregorio López Gorostieta, who disappeared late Sunday in Mexico’s southern Guerrero state, was found on Christmas Day by a highway near the seminary where the priest lived, a local bishop said Friday. This is the third execution of a priest this year in a state that’s plagued with murderous drug gangs and corrupt local politics.

Maximino Martínez Miranda, bishop of the diocese in Ciudad Altamirano, 170 miles southeast of Mexico City, released a statement confirming that López Gorostieta was found with a gunshot wound to the head, four days after he disappeared late Sunday after hosting several pre-Christmas masses.

“We call on all federal, state and municipal authorities to clarify the facts and bring justice for the death of so many brothers and sisters in the state of Guerrero,” Martínez said.

Other priests arriving for Christmas Mass in Cuidad Altamirano saw strangers force the 39-year-old priest from his truck late Sunday around midnight and said “outsiders” were seen earlier in the day casing the seminary, Martínez told La Jornada newspaper.

On Wednesday, before López Gorostieta’s fate was known, hundreds of priests and parishioners marched in Cuidad Altamirano to demand the father’s release. Two other priests have been killed in the state and several others have been abducted for ransom, robbed and attacked.

The state is home to the economically important coastal tourist destination of Acapulco and also a stronghold of the Guerrero Unidos drug cartel, which is suspected of abducting and murdering 43 college students in Iguala in September. Iguala is 110 miles east of where López Gorostieta’s body was found.

In October, Mexico announced the capture of suspected Guerrero Unidos leader Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado. Last month, Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, were detained. Authorities believe the couple asked the drug gang to abduct and kill the students, who had been protesting local political corruption, underscoring the simmering tensions among local politicians, leftists and drug cartels in the region. 

Guerrero is also the base of the country's main insurgent organization, known as the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), which has made statements in recent months defending the student activists' protests against local corruption and nepotism.