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  HOME | Mexico

Mexico Arrests Cartel Hit Man in Execution of Army General

MEXICO CITY -- A rogue ex-soldier and presumed head of a group of Gulf cartel enforcers in the Mexican resort city of Cancun has been arrested on charges he ordered the killing of retired Gen. Mauro Enrique Tello Quiñones and 10 other military men, officials said.

The Defense Secretariat, or Sedena, and the federal Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday the detention of Octavio Almanza Moreles, alias "El Gori 4," and six other members of the Gulf drug mob.

Almanza is accused of ordering an attack that resulted in the deaths of Tello Quiñones, army Lt. Getulio Cesar Roman Zuñiga and a civilian, Juan Dominguez Sanchez, whose bodies - which bore gunshot wounds and signs of torture - were found last week on a road near Cancun.

Tello Quiñones, who had served as military attache at the Mexican Embassy in Spain and as commander of the military zone of the western state of Michoacan, had recently been hired by the Cancun city government to help weed out corruption and revamp the local police force.

Almanza, who also is blamed for masterminding the murder of nine soldiers in the northern state of Nuevo Leon last October, was an army soldier from 1997 until 2004, when he and brothers Raymundo and Eduardo left the military to join Los Zetas, a group of hit men for the Gulf cartel.

Officials said he is suspected of leading Los Zetas in Cancun, a leading Mexican tourist destination that is one of the main points of entry for cocaine from Central and South America. According to Sedena, Almanza served as a lieutenant for one of the Gulf cartel's kingpins, Sigifredo Najera.

A top prosecutor in the AG office's Siedo organized-crime unit, Maricela Morales; and Gen. Luis Alberto Oliver, a top Sedena official, said the arrest of Almanza and six of his underlings was effected thanks to an anonymous tip.

In the operation, the Mexican army also seized 23 assault rifles, 20 handguns, 23 grenades, two grenade launchers, a rocket launcher, cartridges and ammunition clips, $42,000 worth of cash, six vehicles and radio equipment.

The Mexican AG Office said Monday that Cancun police chief Francisco Velasco Delgado had been detained, apparently in connection with the murder of Tello Quiñones.

Armed groups linked to the cartels murdered around 2,700 people in 2007 and 1,500 in 2006, with the 2008 death toll soaring to 5,630, according to a tally by the Mexico City daily El Universal.

According to press reports, some 750 people have died in drug-related violence across Mexico so far this year.

Since taking office in late 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has deployed federal police and soldiers nationwide in a crackdown on drug gangs battling over supply routes to the United States.

But that anti-drug effort has thus far been unsuccessful in stemming the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels' ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking prosecutors. EFE


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