Mexico appeared to strike a major blow against one faction of the hyper-violent Zetas cartel, with the navy announcing it has captured one of the country's most-wanted drug traffickers, Ivan Velazquez Caballero, known as "El Taliban."
Velazquez Caballero has been fighting a bloody internal battle with top Zetas' leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, and officials have said the split was behind a recent surge in massacres and shootouts, particularly in northern Mexico.
"A person who is presumed to be, and acknowledges being, Ivan Velazquez Caballero, was captured in the state of San Luis Potosi" in north-central Mexico, the navy said in a statement on Wednesday.
Officials were presenting Velazquez Caballero to the media Thursday morning.
Also known as "Z-50," Velazquez Caballero has a 30 million peso ($2.3 million) reward on his head.
If confirmed, Velazquez Caballero's arrest could calm some of the brutal violence that has hit border cities like Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas, in recent weeks.
On Sept. 14, eight men were found shot to death and one hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, territory traditionally controlled by Trevino Morales, alias "Z-40." Analysts say 14 bullet-ridden bodies stuffed in a van in mid-August in San Luis Potosi were men loyal to "El Taliban," and may have been left there as a warning by Trevino Morales' underlings.
The Zetas are already considered the hemisphere's most violent criminal organization. They have been blamed for a large share of the tens of thousands of deaths in Mexico's war on drugs, though other gangs also have repeatedly committed mass slayings.
Running gun battles between Navy personnel and gunmen broke out late Wednesday in the border city of Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.
Officials in the border state of Coahuila confirmed the shootouts, and state security spokesman Sergio Cisbeles said the confrontation was serious, but he could not immediately confirm whether there anyone was wounded or dead.
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