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In Mexico: Cartel Leader May Be Dead, Key Lieutenant Captured

"Top Zetas drug cartel leader Heriberto Lazcano has apparently been killed in a firefight with marines in the northern border state of Coahuila, the Mexican navy said late Monday."

And, The Associated Press adds, "the report of Lazcano's death came just hours after the navy nabbed a suspected Zetas regional leader accused of involvement in some of the country's most notorious crimes in recent years. Navy spokesman Jose Luis Vergara said Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo was arrested Saturday in Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas."

Martinez, known as "Squirrel," is thought to have "masterminded the massacre of 72 migrants in the northern state of Tamaulipas in 2010... has been linked to the escape of 151 prisoners in 2010 from a jail in the city of Nuevo Laredo ... and the killing of U.S. citizen David Hartley in 2010 on Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border."

Reuters writes that "if the death of Lazcano, alias 'The Executioner,' is confirmed, he would be the most powerful capo to fall in President Felipe Calderon's military offensive on the gangs. The Zetas, considered one of the two most powerful drug gangs in Mexico, have perpetrated some of the most sickening acts seen in the country's drug war that has killed about 60,000 people during Calderon's term."

According to the Los Angeles Times:

"Lazcano was a soldier in the Mexican army who quit in the late 1990s and was recruited as one of the original members of the Zetas, formed initially as the paramilitary force working on behalf of the Gulf cartel. Under Lazcano, the Zetas broke from the Gulf cartel nearly two years ago and rose to become the strongest criminal organization after the Sinaloa cartel.

"Under Lazcano, the Zetas quickly branched out from drug-running to a large array of crimes including the trafficking of migrants and kidnapping. The Zetas have been locked in a deadly battle to wipe out the Gulf cartel and challenge Sinaloa as the groups vie to control northern and central Mexico."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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