MEXICO CITY —
Cartel leader Heriberto Lazcano, an army special forces deserter whose brutal paramilitary tactics helped define the devastating six-year war among Mexico's drug gangs and authorities, has apparently been killed in a firefight with marines in a state on the border with the Texas, the Mexican navy says.
The Navy stopped short of declaring that the head of the Zetas cartel was confirmed killed, saying it was awaiting the results of more forensic tests. A Mexican military official said marines had given the body to local authorities after the Sunday firefight in the state of Coahuila, and he did not know what had happened to it afterward.
The U.S Drug Enforcement Agency said it was still awaiting confirmation that one of Mexico's most feared drug lords had been slain.
If the death is confirmed, it would be one of the most significant victories in Mexico's militarized battle with organized crime two months before the man who sharply expanded it, President Felipe Calderon, leaves office. Lazcano was credited with bringing military tactics and training to the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, then splitting from his former bosses and turning the Zetas into one of the country's two most potent cartels, with a penchant for headline-grabbing atrocities and control of territory stretching along the U.S. border and at least as far south as Guatemala.
Most recently, the Zetas were linked to the assassination of the nephew of the governor of Coahuila last week, a slaying that prompted the federal government to dispatch additional troops, federal police and criminal investigators to the state.
The death would also be a victory for Mexico's most-wanted man and the Zetas' bitterest enemy, Sinaloa cartel head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who has been waging a vicious battle with the Zetas for territory along the U.S. border and other parts of Mexico.