Mexican marines have captured a founding member of the brutal Zetas drug cartel, the navy announced.
Troops arrested Raul Lucio Hernandez Lechuga in the city of Cordoba in the state of Veracruz, where the Zetas are fighting for control against a gang allied to the Sinaloa drug cartel, the navy said.
Hernandez, known as “Lucky”, was the leader of the Zetas for the states of Veracruz, Puebla and Oaxaca, it said. The federal government had offered a 15m peso reward, about €830,000, for information leading to his arrest.
The Zetas organisation was formed by a small group of elite soldiers based in Tamaulipas state, across the border from Texas, who deserted to work for the Gulf drug cartel in the 1990s.
The Zetas began gaining independence from the Gulf cartel after their then leader, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, was extradited to the US in 2006. They finally split from their former bosses last year, setting off bloody fights throughout Mexico as they seek to expand south.
The navy didn’t say if Hernandez was a soldier when he joined the Zetas in the 1990s or give any other details about him.
Earlier on Monday, the Mexican army said its soldiers battled suspected drug cartel members just south of the Texas border, killing 11 gunmen. One soldier was reported wounded.
The clash began when soldiers on patrol were fired at on Saturday from a building in the city of Valle Hermoso, south of Brownsville, Texas, the defence department said in a news release.
The troops later seized the building, finding 11 dead gunmen and 73 rifles inside, it said. Two suspects were arrested.
The wounded soldier was taken to a hospital for treatment. His condition was unknown.
Both the Gulf and Zetas drug cartels operate in that area.
In Veracruz, a Gulf coast state bordering Tamaulipas to the south, unidentified assailants tossed a bomb into a building where a cockfight was being held early on Sunday, state prosecutors said.
One man was killed and nine slightly wounded, the statement said. The wounded were treated at hospitals and released.
State prosecutors did not specify what type of explosive was involved. They also did not say if they had arrested any suspects or uncovered a motive for the attack.
Federal prosecutors also announced on Monday that a judge sentenced five former soldiers to 25-year prison terms for aiding a drug cartel.
The rare convictions occurred in the northern state of Sinaloa, home to the drug cartel of the same name.
The five included a major assigned to the military court system, three lieutenants and a sergeant. They were convicted of organised crime and assisting in drug trafficking.
Prosecutors said in a statement the former officers gave “strategic military information and protection” to Alfredo Beltran Leyva, who was a leader of the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel before he was arrested in January 2008.
Beltran Leyva and his brothers were allied with the Sinaloa cartel, but the two gangs split in part because of Alfredo’s arrest.