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Blog del Narco: 44 Captives Being Held by Zetas Rescued in Guatemala

Blog del Narco: 44 Captives Being Held by Zetas Rescued in Guatemala

Photo: Los Zetas Crest

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Police and soldiers freed 44 peasants who were being held captive by a cell of the Mexico-based Los Zetas drug cartel, the Guatemalan army said Friday.

The captives, including women and children, were rescued “safe and sound” Wednesday night in Santo Domingo Sinlaj, a rural community near the Mexican border, an army spokesman said.

“It was learned that a group of people were held by members of the criminal grouping Los Zetas, so we formed a rescue unit made up of members of the army and the PNC (national police),” Col. Erick Escobedo told Efe.

The peasants, who were taken to a military base in Huehuetenango, said that armed men - some of them Mexican - held them prisoner for more than three days and threatened to kill them if they refused to collaborate in “illicit activities,” the spokesman said.

The mass abduction followed weeks of threats and harassment by Los Zetas, the peasants told reporters.

Escobedo said that after rescuing the captives, the police-army task force apprehended the reputed head of Zetas operations in the area, Guatemalan national Daniel Juan Nicolas.

Nicolas’ arrest was announced Thursday by Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz, whose office said the Zetas have been using Santo Domingo Sinlaj to warehouse drugs and guns and as a training camp.

Guatemalan security officials said Tuesday that they are on alert for increased violence in their country stemming from a rumored split in the leadership of Los Zetas.

More than 100 Zetas have been captured and at least 42 sentenced to prison terms by Guatemalan courts since 2008, when the cartel began operating in the Central American country to control drugs routes running from South America to the United States.

The Zetas, founded by deserters from a U.S.-trained Mexican special forces unit, started out as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but the two organizations had a falling out in 2010 and the Zetas went into the drug business on their own account, gaining control of several lucrative territories.