|About 28,000 people have been killed since the government's offensive against drug gangs began in 2006 [Reuters]
Police in Mexico say they have arrested the alleged new leader of a drug gang fighting to control smuggling routes out of the Pacific port of Acapulco.
Federal police officials announced the arrest on Wednesday, saying they had captured Carlos "the Cowboy" Montemayor during a raid in an upscale neighbourhood of Mexico City, the capital, a day earlier.
The 38-year-old is said to be the successor to drug lord Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez who was arrested in August, police said.
The Valdez gang, a splinter group of the Beltran Leyva cartel, is believed to have driven a surge in violence in the state of Morelos, south of the capital.
Ramon Pequeno, the federal police anti-narcotics chief, said Montemayor told police that his faction was responsible for kidnapping and killing 20 Mexican tourists in Acapulco, mistaking them for members of the rival La Familia cartel.
The group of men were abducted in September while travelling in cars with license plates from their home state of Michoacan, the birthplace of La Familia.
Boosting troop levels
News of the arrest came as the government announced plans to send more soldiers and police officers to the northern states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas to fight drug-related violence.
The goal of the operation is to reinforce government authority in the two states most heavily affected by fighting set off earlier this year by a split between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs, Alejandro Poire, a federal police spokesman, said.
The "Co-ordinated Northeast Operation" also aims to keep the cartels from regrouping after the takedown of key leaders, he said.
Intense cartel violence has plagued the industrial city of Monterrey in Nuevo Leon and all of Tamaulipas, where cartel firefights and violence this month sent hundreds of residents fleeing the town of Ciudad Mier.
The government already has operations targeting drug gangs in other parts of Mexico, including Chihuahua state, but the efforts so far have failed to quell drug violence, which has killed 28,000 people since Felipe Calderon, the president, launched his offensive on organised crime in 2006.
An opinion poll released this week said 49 per cent of Mexicans believe the government's drug war has been a failure, compared to 33 percent who said it has been a success.