A suspected leader of the Los Zetas drug cartel was arrested by army troops outside the northern industrial city of Monterrey, while the Federal Police detained a boss and four other members of the La Familia Michoacana cartel in western Mexico, officials said.
The Zetas boss was arrested in Juarez, a city east of Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon state.
Soldiers acting on a tip went to Santa Fe, a subdivision in Juarez, around 8:00 a.m. Friday and found Zapata Gallegos at a house.
Army troops engaged a group of gunmen who tried to rescue Zapata Gallegos in a shootout and killed four of them, the Defense Secretariat said.
Gunmen then staged a series of street blockades in different cities in the Monterrey metropolitan area.
Zapata Gallegos succeeded the Luna brothers as the Zetas boss in the city.
Esteban Luna, who was captured in July, was the cartel’s boss in Monterrey and was behind several attacks on army troops and a U.S. consulate.
Luna took over the cartel’s operations in the industrial city after his brother, Hector Raul Luna, was arrested on June 9.
Los Zetas gunmen have been involved in a number of violent incidents that grabbed the headlines in Mexico recently.
Monterrey Institute of Technology students Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Francisco Arredondo Verdugo were killed on March 19 when army troops entered the campus in pursuit of suspected Zetas gunmen during a wild chase through the streets of Monterrey, which is home to many of Mexico’s leading industrial companies.
The cartel’s hired guns were also behind the Oct. 12, 2008, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey.
No one was wounded when gunmen opened fire on the diplomatic facility.
Gunmen working for Los Zetas are also suspected of carrying out the massacre last week of 72 illegal immigrants at a ranch in the neighboring state of Tamaulipas.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
The Zetas broke with the Gulf cartel several months ago and the two criminal organizations are at war.
The armed group is now in the drug business on its own and controls several lucrative territories.
In February, giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels against Los Zetas appeared in the northern city of Monterrey.
The cartels arrayed against Los Zetas blame the group’s involvement in kidnapping, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans inclined to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.
The gang war has especially affected Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.
Federal Police officers, meanwhile, arrested five La Familia Michoacana cartel members, including Jose Luis Garcia Vazquez, who is suspected of running the criminal organization’s operations in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan.
The 28-year-old Garcia Vazquez was arrested with his second-in-command, Rafael Mora, and three other cartel members, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
The suspects were arrested in an operation carried out on Aug. 22 following intelligence work targeting La Familia Michoacana, the secretariat said.
Garcia Vazquez was responsible for transporting and selling drugs, as well as for carrying out kidnappings, running extortion rackets and staging killings, officials said.
Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to experts, are the Sinaloa, Tijuana, Gulf, Juarez, Los Zetas and Beltran Leyva cartels, and La Familia Michoacana.
La Familia Michoacana, which operates in the western state of Michoacan, the southern state of Guerrero and the central state of Mexico, which surrounds the Federal District and forms part of the Mexico City metropolitan area, is considered the largest trafficker of synthetic drugs in Mexico.