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Narco Blog: 11 Zetas Charged with Kidnapping and Homicide

Narco Blog: 11 Zetas Charged with Kidnapping and Homicide

Photo: Zetas captured in Mexico

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Mexican authorities announced the arrest of another 11 suspected members of the Los Zetas drug cartel in the violence-plagued northeastern state of Nuevo Leon.

They were detained a few hours prior to the capture of 18 purported Zetas enforcers in that state after a gun battle.

The Nuevo Leon Attorney General’s Office paraded the group of 11 detainees - a cell of five women and six men accused of kidnappings and homicides - before the media on Friday, a day after they were arrested in the city of San Nicolas de los Garza while attempting to collect a ransom.

Among the detainees was 25-year-old Jaime Cabrera Escalante, suspected Zetas chief in San Nicolas, part of the metropolitan area of Monterrey, the state capital.

The cell targeted business people and demanded an average of 3 million pesos (some $221,000) for their release, Nuevo Leon Attorney General Adrian de la Garza said Friday at a press conference.

Authorities seized four vehicles, four assault rifles and two handguns from the suspects, who have confessed to at least four kidnappings and two homicides thus far, he added.

Later, army soldiers captured 18 suspected Zetas members at a bar in a town 30 kilometers (18 miles) northwest of Monterrey after a shootout early Friday, a spokesperson for the Nuevo Leon State Investigations Agency told Efe.

A young man who was standing watch outside the bar where the purported Zetas members had gathered to watch a soccer match on television was killed in the exchange of gunfire.

The suspected Zetas chief in four rural municipalities of Nuevo Leon, which borders the United States, was among the 18 detainees. Authorities identified the man by his alias, “el Chicho.”

The army soldiers also captured his chief enforcer and 16 other purported Zetas henchmen and confiscated guns, grenades, six vehicles, drugs and cash.

Founded by deserters from an elite special forces unit, Los Zetas began as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but ended that relationship in March 2010 to go into business for themselves.

Since then, the criminal gang has been behind some of Mexico’s most brutal episodes of violence in its bid to wrest away territory from the more established drug-trafficking organizations.

Nearly 2,000 people have died this year in Nuevo Leon in a turf war between the Zetas and Gulf mobs and clashes between those cartels and the security forces.

Elsewhere, Mexican federal police arrested six suspected members of the Gulf cartel who have been linked to at least 40 kidnappings in Tampico and Ciudad Madero, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, the federal Public Safety Secretariat said Friday.

Two kidnap victims were freed in the same operation without a single shot fired, the secretariat said, adding that the members of the kidnapping ring beat and tortured their victims to pressure their families to make ransom payments and even killed some of their captives.

According to intelligence reports, the kidnapping ring targeted professionals, business owners and executives and monitored their movements before abducting them, it said.

The kidnappers’ modus operandi involved disguising themselves as security forces to abduct their victims, threatening them and hiding them away in a safe house.

The secretariat added that police surveillance led to a safe house where the two kidnap victims, abducted earlier this month, were rescued.

The group’s purported leader, 57-year-old Jorge Fernando Larios Nossiff, who is suspected of planning and coordinating the abductions, was among the detainees.

Also taken into custody were Mexican suspects Jose de Jesus Mosqueda, 41; Nestor Hugo del Angel Ferretis, 29; Andrea Escamilla, 21; and Ricardo Abraham Velazquez, 24, as well as a Nicaraguan man identified as Rene Cortes Zapata, 45.

Authorities seized an AK-47 automatic rifle and two handguns, ammunition clips for weapons of different calibers, two vehicles, nine cellular phones and communications gear at the safe house.

The detainees and the equipment were handed over to the relevant authorities.

Tamaulipas, like Nuevo Leon, has been one of the states hardest hit by drug-related violence and other criminal activity in recent years.

President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against Mexico’s heavily armed, well-funded drug mobs shortly after taking office in December 2006, deploying tens of thousands of army troops and federal police to drug-war flashpoints.

The strategy has led to headline-grabbing captures of cartel kingpins, but drug-related violence has skyrocketed and claimed nearly 50,000 lives nationwide over the five-year period.

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