Seven people linked to the Los Caballeros Templarios drug cartel, including the boss of a group of gunmen employed by the criminal organization, were arrested by the Federal Police, the Mexican Public Safety Secretariat said.
Faustino Pacheco Torres, who admitted taking part in the shootout with police that resulted in the death of La Familia Michoacana cartel boss Nazario Moreno last year, was among those arrested.
The suspects range in age from 19 to 36, the secretariat said.
Los Caballeros Templarios is a gang made up of former members of La Familia, which mainly smuggled synthetic drugs into the United States.
La Familia, based in the western state of Michoacan, has been severely weakened in recent months by infighting and government operations targeting the gang.
Michoacan has been experiencing a wave of drug-related violence blamed on the break-up of La Familia, which was considered one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels.
The La Familia faction led by Jesus Mendez, who was arrested last month, has been fighting the group led by Servando Gomez and Enrique Plancarte, who formed Los Caballeros Templarios in March.
The cartel began unraveling after Moreno’s death, officials and analysts say.
Moreno, known as “El Chayo” and considered La Familia Michoacana’s ideological leader, was killed in a shootout with Federal Police in December 2010.
Pacheco was in charge of a group of gunmen who worked for the new cartel in Apatzingan, the city in which he was arrested and one of the areas in Michoacan where drug traffickers have a high degree of control.
Apatzingan has been the scene of numerous drug-related killings in recent years.
The Federal Police seized several firearms, four white tunics with red crosses on them and 20 books containing the cartel’s code of conduct in the operation targeting Pacheco.
Los Caballeros Templarios, like La Familia, requires members to adhere to a code of conduct and portrays itself as working for the good of the community despite its criminal activities.
Michoacan is on Mexico’s Pacific coast, which is used by smugglers to bring drugs into the country.
The drugs are then smuggled via the Pacific corridor or through central Mexico into the United States, the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs.