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Mexico says Zetas cartel ordered beheadings
Officials say leaders of Zetas drug gang told underling nicknamed El Loco to leave 49 mutilated bodies in town square.
Last Modified: 22 May 2012 04:57
Mutilated corpses of 43 men and six women found in a pile on a highway in state of Nuevo Leon on May 13 [Reuters]

Mexican army has arrested an alleged perpetrator of the massacre of 49 people, whose mutilated bodies were found dumped on a highway last week.

Daniel Elizondo Ramirez, alias "The Madman," a local leader of the Zetas drug cartel, was detained in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, a spokesman for the army said on Sunday.

Elizondo headed the Zetas trafficking operations in Cadereyta, an industrial town on the outskirts of Monterrey, close to where the headless bodies were dumped, the official said.

The massacre is one of the worst atrocities committed in Mexico's drug war, which has raged since President Felipe Calderon took power in 2006 and launched a national offensive against the cartels.

Brigadier-General Edgar Luis Villegas said that Ramirez apparently got nervous about dumping the corpses in the town and left them on a highway outside of Cadereyta instead.

The bodies with their heads, hands and feet hacked off were found May 13.

Ramirez tried to escape arrest on Friday by tossing a hand grenade at troops before they captured him in a suburb of the northern city of Monterrey, Villegas said.

Guatemala killing

Ramirez reportedly headed the Zetas' trafficking operations in Cadereyta, an industrial town on the outskirts of Monterrey.

Villegas said Elizondo Ramirez had acknowledged accompanying Zetas second-in-command Miguel-Angel Trevino Morales to Guatemala in 2008 to assassinate a rival drug leader.

The Zetas have expanded their territory in recent years into neighboring Guatemala.

Villegas said Elizondo Ramirez had also confessed to killing members of the Gulf cartel and burning or burying their bodies in another area of Nuevo Leon state.

The massacre is one of the worst atrocities committed in Mexico's drug war, which has raged since President Felipe Calderon took power in 2006 and launched a national offensive against the cartels.

Police found the corpses on the highway about 29km east of Monterrey on May 13.

As the bodies lacked heads,hands and feet, police said they could only identify them using DNA. A week later, none of the victims has been identified, according to investigators.

Internet video

Police said they have found no signs of recent mass disappearances in the region and the victims could be migrants from Central or South America passing through Mexico on the way to the US.

Drug cartels often kidnap foreign migrants for ransom,killing those who do not pay.

Graffiti sprayed at the scene of the corpses showed the mark of the Zetas, who are fighting for control of the region.

A video that allegedly shows the men dumping the bodies was also posted on the internet. In the film, men can be seen pulling a large pile of corpses from a truck onto the road during the night.

They are then seen leaving a message on a blanket that threatens security forces and the rival Gulf and Sinaloa cartels of traffickers.

"Gulf cartel, Sinaloa cartel, marines and soldiers, nobody can do anything against us or they will lose," said the message, which was signed by names of Zeta leaders.

However, in the following days, messages were put up in several Mexican states claiming the Zetas were not behind the massacre - an unusual measure as the gang openly claims to be behind many mass killings.

Violence intensifies

The Zetas were founded by former soldiers who defected from the Mexican military in 1998 to work as hired killers for drug traffickers.

They have since carved out their own smuggling empire, expanded massively across Mexico and diversified into kidnapping, extortion and theft of crude oil.

In recent weeks, violence between the Zetas and their rivals has intensified in several parts of Mexico.

Among the worst incidents, 18 people were decapitated near the city of Guadalajara and nine victims were hanged from a bridge in the city of Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas.

In total, around 55,000 people have died in drug related violence and more than 5,000 have disappeared in Mexico since Calderon took office in December 2006.

Source:
Agencies
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