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Mexico captures an alleged leader of drug cartel

Zambada taken without a shot

DANIEL AGUILAR/REUTERSVicente Zambada is alleged to be the security and operations chief of Mexico's powerful Sinaloa drug cartel. DANIEL AGUILAR/REUTERSVicente Zambada is alleged to be the security and operations chief of Mexico's powerful Sinaloa drug cartel. (DANIEL AGUILAR/REUTERS)
By E. Eduardo Castillo
Associated Press / March 20, 2009
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MEXICO CITY - Mexico's military has captured the security and operations chief of the nation's most powerful drug cartel, officials said yesterday, delivering another punishing blow only weeks after US officials rounded up hundreds of cartel members north of the border.

Vicente Zambada allegedly became a top Sinaloa cartel leader last year, with control over logistics and authority to order assassinations of government authorities and rivals. He was arrested before dawn Wednesday at a home in an elite Mexico City neighborhood, said General Luis Arturo Oliver, the Defense Department's deputy chief of operations.

Zambada's father, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, also is considered a top leader of the Sinaloa cartel and is among Mexico's most wanted suspects.

Last month US President Obama's administration announced that investigators had arrested 755 Sinaloa cartel members in cities and towns all over the United States.

The United States is seeking Zambada's extradition on a 2003 trafficking indictment, but he will have to face charges in Mexico before the request can be considered.

"This significantly affects the organization's ability to operate and distribute drugs," said Ricardo Cabrera, who runs the terrorism and drug trafficking unit in Mexico's attorney general's office.

The Sinaloa cartel has been accused of paying off top Mexican security officials, including the country's former drug czar, Noe Ramirez, who is accused of accepting $450,000 to tip cartel leaders to police operations.

General Oliver said police and military personnel were closely watching the exclusive Lomas del Pedregal neighborhood after receiving complaints about armed men in cars. They managed to surprise Zambada and his five bodyguards and arrest them without a shot, seizing three AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifles, three pistols, three cars, and several thousand dollars in cash.

Ismael Zambada's brother, Jesus Zambada, known as "The King," was arrested last year in Mexico City and accused of helping smuggle cocaine and methamphetamines through the Mexico City airport. He also is under investigation for taking part in the killing of top police officials in Mexico City. The other two known Sinaloa cartel leaders at large are Joaquin Guzman Loera and Ignacio Coronel Villarreal.

Mexican officials issued a $5 million reward for tips leading to Guzman's capture after he escaped from a prison in 2001 hidden in a laundry truck. Forbes Magazine recently ranked Guzman as one of the world's richest men, with an estimated $1 billion fortune.

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