US arrests Mexico cartel suspects
Hundreds detained as part of two year US campaign against Mexico drug cartels.
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2009 03:10 GMT
Thousands were killed last year as Mexican drug cartels fought turf wars [EPA]

Dozens of suspected members of a major Mexican drug cartel have been arrested by US authorities.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested 52 alleged members of the Sinaloa cartel on Tuesday and Wednesday in the US states of California, Maryland and Minnesota as part of what it calls "Operation XCellerator".

The arrests were part of a two-year campaign that has seen 755 people detained.

"They are a national-security threat," Eric Holder, the US attorney-general said of the cartels.

"They are lucrative. They are violent. And they are operated with stunning planning and precision."

Cartels 'hit hard'

The Sinaloa drug cartel, along with the Gulf cartel, control most of the flow of illegal drugs into the US and turf wars in Mexico have seen more than 6,000 people killed there in the last year.

Al Jazeera's Franc Contreras, reporting from Mexico City, said this week's arrests were directed at distribution networks inside the US and that this was a blow to Sinaloa's businesses.

The DEA says the arrests will not stop the cartel's operations in the US, but it will take the traffickers some time to get back on their feet.

Last September, more than 650 members of the Gulf cartel were arrested.

"We've been hitting the cartels pretty hard," a DEA official told Al Jazeera.

The result, the agency says, has been a 104 per cent rise in the street value of cocaine in the US as supply levels drop.

The operation targeted suspects in 26 US states said Michele Leonhart, the acting DEA administrator.

More than 12,000kg of cocaine have been seized in total during the operation, along with 7,300kg of marijuana, 550kg of methamphetamine and 1.3 million Ecstasy pills.

The violence in Mexico has continued despite Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, sending thousands of troops to crush the gangs.

Washington has also pledged $1.6bn in military equipment and training assistance to Mexico over the next three years.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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