Mexico says it holds drug cartel leader
Arrests in capital follow shoot-out
MEXICO CITY - A drug cartel leader who directed cocaine trafficking through Mexico City's international airport was arrested after a shoot-out in the capital, prosecutors said yesterday.
Jesus "The King" Zambada was among 16 Sinaloa cartel members arrested Monday after a gun battle with police in which an apparent grenade explosion destroyed a car, Attorney General Eduardo Medina said. Zambada's son, his nephew, two federal police officers and one state police officer also were among those arrested.
Zambada was identified as the brother of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, who allegedly heads the cartel along with one of Mexico's most wanted men, Joaquin Guzman.
Medina described Jesus Zambada as one of the top four leaders of the cartel. He was allegedly in charge of operations in central Mexico, including cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking through the capital city's international airport. He is suspected in the death of several people found decapitated around the airport in 2007, Medina said.
"He is one of most important importers of cocaine and methamphetamine to this country from South America," said Marisela Morales, head of the organized crime division at the Attorney General's Office.
The Sinaloa cartel has suffered several blows since President Felipe Calderon deployed thousands of federal troops and police across the country two years ago to seize back territory from drug gangs.
In January, police arrested Alfredo Beltran Leyva, one of five brothers believed to have been top lieutenants of the Sinaloa cartel, based in the northwestern Mexican state of the same name. Federal officials say Beltran Leyva brothers have broken away from the Sinaloa cartel.
Medina said authorities have arrested nearly 48,000 drug cartel members since Calderon took office in December 2006, seized nearly 69 tons of cocaine, and recovered more than 24,000 illegal weapons.