Edgar Huerta Montiel was detained in the northern state of Zacatecasb [AFP]

Mexican federal police have arrested a military deserter believed to have joined the Zetas drug cartel and participated in the massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas, near the US border.

Ramon Eduardo Pequeo, chief of the Anti-Drug Division of the Federal Police, said that Edgar Huerta Montiel, alias "El Huache", was the local leader in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, for the Zetas gang and allegedly "coordinated the multiple homicide of migrants" in that municipality.

Edgar Huerta Montiel was detained in the northern state of Zacatecas along with his girlfriend Brenda Acevedo, said Pequeo.

Huerta is suspected of killing at least 10 Central American migrants in August 2010 and orchestrating the kidnapping of two cargo trucks where 60 migrants from Central America were hiding.

Huerta told police victims were taken to safe houses and tortured. Those who died were buried in mass graves.

Pequeno also said it is believed the migrants were kidnapped for ransom.

The bodies of the 72 massacred migrants from Honduras, Salvador, Guatemala and Brazil were discovered on a ranch, bound, blindfolded and slumped against a wall.

A lone survivor, an 18-year-old Ecuadorean who managed to escape and alert marines at a checkpoint, said the killers identified themselves as Zetas, a drug gang that dominates much of Tamaulipas.

In April authorities dug out clandestine mass graves where they found 193 bodies. It is believed the victims were immigrants trying to cross into the US.

Source: Agencies