Monday, September 28, 2009

La Linea Active in the Valley of Juarez

A former Juárez police officer suspected in 18 murders and belonging to a drug cartel cell was one of multiple arrests during the weekend by the Mexican army, military officials said Sunday.

Ex-officer Miguel Angel Delgado Carmona, 39, and suspected accomplice Roberto Gonzalez Lazalde, 34, were captured Saturday afternoon after a vehicle chase following an extortion attempt of a Juárez funeral home, officials with Joint Operation Chihuahua said.

Soldiers with the Fourth Infantry Battalion began chasing the van moments after four men had delivered a note to the funeral home stating "Call today (a telephone number) without excuse, attention La Linea."

Two of the men exited the Dodge Caravan at a street corner and escaped.


But soldiers captured Delgado and Gonzalez, who allegedly confessed to belonging to a cell of La Linea, as the Juárez drug cartel is known. The cell killed rivals with the Sinaloa cartel and would extort payments from various businesses.

Delgado, alias "El Chango" (the monkey), is accused of killing 18 people and taking part in locating 80 other homicide victims since September 2008. Two AK-47s (cuernos de chivo) and two handguns were seized.

Delgado's arrest was one of several made by the Mexican army during the weekend.

At 3:50 a.m. Sunday, soldiers and Juárez police caught German Guzman Ochoa, who had a .38 special revolver, minutes after Guzman allegedly killed his relative Miguel Angel Urquizo Ochoa by accidentally shooting him in the back while they were drinking, authorities said.

In the town of Nuevo Casas Grandes, soldiers arrested five suspected members of a hit team with the "Gente Nueva," the "new people" belonging to the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Mexico's National Defense Secretariat stated the group was detained Friday when an army patrol with the 35th Infantry Battalion stopped two vehicles that appeared suspicious. Four rifles and two handguns were seized.

The group is suspected in 14 kidnappings in the Nuevo Casas Grandes area in the northwestern part of the state of Chihuahua.

The arrested were identified as Francisco Jeronimo Teran Estrada, Juan Martin Baltazar Reyes, Ruben Alejandro Moreno Ahumada, Jorge Alberto Fierro Garcia and Cruz Vargas Sauceda.

The latest arrests are part of a string of captures of cartel operatives and gunmen made by the military in recent weeks in Juárez.

Despite the arrests, killings continue daily, including an apparent intensification of violence in the Valley of Juárez.

There have been at least 25 murders this month in Guadalupe, San Agustin and other farming villages located along the Rio Grande east of Juárez.

The killings are believed to be part of a fight among narco-traffickers for control of a valley that is a vital drug smuggling corridor east of El Paso-Juárez.

On September. 4, the Mexican army captured Jose Rodolfo Escajeda, known as "El Rikin," a reputed boss in the Juárez cartel whose organization was in charge of the valley. Escajeda is also sought by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Also on September 10, 2009 the army arrested sicario (hitman) Michael Escalante , a.k.a. "El Junior," seen on the left blindfolded and handcuffed as he is presented to the media. Escalante is a suspect in at least eighteen murders.

Rivals have apparently threatened to exterminate the remainder of Escajeda's organization.

U.S. law enforcement sources confirmed two message banners, known as narco mantas, were found last week in Guadalupe and San Ignacio. One banner warned Escajeda's followers to leave or be killed. The other banner called on his people to surrender.

More than 1,700 people have been killed in Juárez this year, surpassing the 1,600 slain last year when a war began between the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels.

SOURCE: By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times

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