Eleven suspected Gulf cartel members wanted for 21 murders and five kidnappings were arrested when they arrived at the airport in Monterrey, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, officials said Thursday.
The suspected drug traffickers were arrested a week ago on their return with about 80 relatives from a vacation in the Caribbean resort city of Cancun, Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina said.
Oziel Asael Salas Hernandez, who was the cartel cell’s leader, and the other suspects were paraded before reporters on Thursday.
The suspects confessed to the killings of 21 people, including four Monterrey police officers, “for supposedly bothering their drug dealers,” the governor said.
The cartel members, including a minor, also confessed to at least five kidnappings for ransom of more than 1 million pesos (about $75,000), Medina said.
The arrests were made as a result of intelligence work by the State Investigations Agency, or AEI, Nuevo Leon Attorney General Adrian de la Garza said, adding that at least four more suspects were being sought.
“At the time of their capture, they did not have any arms since they were returning from the beaches of Cancun. We know they bought 80 tickets for relatives and other people related to the group,” De la Garza said.
Relatives not involved in the gang’s activities were released, the attorney general said.
Authorities seized firearms at safe houses belonging to the gang in the Moderna neighborhood of Monterrey, one of the cities where the Gulf cartel has been waging a turf war against rival drug traffickers.
The Gulf cartel has been fighting Los Zetas, a band of Mexican army special forces deserters turned hired guns and drug traffickers, in northern and northeastern Mexico.
After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
The Gulf cartel was founded by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra in the 1970s and was later led by Juan Garcia Abrego, who was arrested in 1996 and extradited to the United States.
Osiel Cardenas Guillen later became the Gulf cartel’s undisputed boss.
Cardenas was arrested in 2003, but he continued running the Gulf cartel, one of the most violent and powerful criminal organizations in Mexico, until his extradition to the United States four years later.
Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen took over the Gulf cartel’s leadership following his brother’s extradition to the United States.