orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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October 9, 2012

Mexico navy: Zetas cartel leader apparently killed

(Continued)

MEXICO CITY —

Mexican authorities have announced a string of arrests of high-profile Zetas figures in recent months. Such captures often lead authorities to higher-ranking figures.

The navy said Monday there were "strong indications" that one of two men killed in a shootout Sunday was Lazcano, known as "El Lazca." But it added that more forensics tests the body would have to be carried out to confirm the identification.

The Zetas, which Lazcano helped found with other deserters from an elite army unit, have carried out some of Mexico's bloodiest massacres, biggest jail breaks and fiercest attacks on authorities.

Lazcano, who is also known as "El Verdugo" (the Executioner), is suspected in hundreds of killings, including the June 2004 slaying of Francisco Ortiz Franco, a top editor of a crusading weekly newspaper in Tijuana that often reported on drug trafficking. Ortiz Franco was gunned down in front of his two young children as he left a clinic.

The United States has offered a $5 million reward and Mexico an additional $2.3 million for information leading to Lazcano's arrest.

The Sunday shootout came in the rural area of Progreso, Coahuila, about 80 miles (125 kilometers) west of the Texas border, near Laredo.

The navy said it received complaints about armed men in the area and sent a patrol to check out the reports. Gunmen tossed grenades at the patrol from a moving vehicle, wounding one of the marines. His injuries were not life-threatening.

Two of the gunmen were killed in the ensuing shootout, the navy's statement said. In the gunmen's' vehicle, authorities found a grenade launcher, 12 grenades, what appeared to be rocket propelled grenade launcher and two rifles.

Under Lazcano's leadership, the Zetas recruited more hit men, many of them former Mexican soldiers, and hired "kaibiles," Guatemalan soldiers trained in counterinsurgency, transforming what had been a small group of assassins into a ruthless gang of enforcers for the Gulf cartel. The Zetas also were in charge of protecting the Gulf cartel's drug shipments.

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