A detained leader of Mexico’s notorious Aztecas drug gang claims to have ordered 80 percent of the thousands of murders in the border city of Ciudad Juarez over the past two years, officials said on Monday.
Mexican authorities said Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, 32, arrested in Juarez on Saturday, has confessed to taking part in several of Mexico’s highest-profile slayings, including the fatal shootings of a US consular staffer and two other people in March and an ambush at a party of teenagers that left 15 people dead in January.
Officials said Gallegos during his questioning has claimed responsibility for some eight in ten killings since August last year in Juarez, Mexico’s troubled drug crime capital, although they said it was impossible to verify the claim.
However, Gallegos’ arrest has not stemmed the blood-letting in Juarez, Mexico most violent city where hundreds have died this year alone in the country’s spiraling drug war.
Two days after his arrest, authorities on Monday announced a grisly discovery: 18 bodies in a secret, unmarked grave in Ciudad Juarez.
Meanwhile one of a handful of women who stepped into the role of police chief along the drug-infested border was gunned down in a small town in the border state of Chihuahua, police said.
Officials said Hermila Garcia Baeza, who had been police chief for only a month in Meoqui, a town of 21,000 inhabitants, was shot to death on Monday by unidentified gunmen.
Gallegos is said to have orchestrated equally ruthless and bloody acts of violence, and his Azteca group, which is allied with the Juarez drug-trafficking cartel, is believed responsible for much of the violence that has turned Ciudad Juarez into Mexico’s deadliest city with some 2,700 dead this year alone.
On Jan. 31, he allegedly ordered his gunmen to attack the party crowded with teenagers because he had had information that members of a rival gang would be there. Even though he found out the tip was erroneous, he ordered the massacre carried out anyway, federal police say.
Gallegos allegedly also ordered the March 14 commando shooting of a US consulate official in Juarez and her husband.
The Aztecas and other drug gangs have been combatants in a three-year-old turf war that has raged across the country since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a military-led offensive against cartels soon after taking office in December 2006.
Though Mexico’s most wanted drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman remains a fugitive, the recent arrests represent continuing success by Mexico officials in apprehending some of the country’s most hardened and notorious drug criminals.
Earlier this month, Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, known as “Tony Tormenta,” a top leader of the Gulf cartel was shot and killed during a lengthy shootout in northeastern Mexico. He was believed to be the current head of the Gulf gang -- one of Mexico’s oldest -- which has been fighting a particularly brutal turf war with its former allies the Zetas this year.
In September, officials arrested alleged drug kingpin Sergio Villarreal, dubbed “El Grande” because he stands 2m tall. He is accused by Mexican authorities of trafficking and carrying out murders for several of the country’s brutal drug cartels.
In August, officials arrested alleged drug kingpin Edgar Valdez, known as “La Barbie” for his fair looks. Valdez, 37, was arrested on Aug. 30 in a police raid in central Mexico.