MEXICO CITY — Mexican marines captured Sergio Villarreal Barragan, a presumed leader of the embattled Beltran Leyva cartel who appears on a list of the country’s most-wanted fugitives, in a raid Sunday in the central state of Puebla, officials said.
The presumed capo known as “El Grande” did not put up any resistance when he was arrested along with two alleged accomplices, a Navy official told The Associated Press. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy, said federal officials would announce the capture shortly.
Villarreal appears on a 2009 Attorney General’s Office list of Mexico’s most-wanted drug traffickers and has a reward of just over $2 million for his capture.
He is listed as one of the remaining leaders of the Beltran Leyva cartel, whose top capo, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in December in a raid by marines outside Mexico City.
Villarreal’s capture comes about two weeks after the arrest of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, or “The Barbie,” another alleged capo linked to the Beltran Leyvas.
The once-powerful Beltran Leyva cartel split following the death of Arturo — known as the “Boss of Bosses” — which launched a brutal war for control of the gang involving mass execution and beheadings in once-peaceful parts of central Mexico. The fight pitted brother Hector Beltran Leyva and Villarreal against a faction led by Edgar Valdez Villarreal. Hector Beltran Leyva remains at large.
Villarreal’s capture is the fourth major blow delivered to drug cartels by Mexico’s government in the past year.
First came the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva on Dec. 16, 2009, then soldiers killed the Sinaloa cartel’s No. 3 capo, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, on July 29. And on Aug. 30 federal police announced the capture of “The Barbie.”
More than 28,000 people have been killed in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a military offensive against the cartels soon after taking office.
In the central state of Morelos, police discovered nine bodies in clandestine graves Saturday in the same area where four more were recently found.
The Public Safety Department said in a separate statement that all 13 victims were believed to have been killed on the orders of “The Barbie” in his battle for control of the cartel.
Also Sunday, the military announced that it filed charges against four troops for the Sept. 5 shooting deaths of a man and his 15-year-old son along the highway linking the northern city of Monterrey to Laredo, Texas.
Authorities have said soldiers opened fire on the family vehicle when it failed to stop at a checkpoint, though relatives who were also in the car say they were shot at after they passed a military convoy.
The mother and wife of the two victims was also wounded in the shooting.
A captain, a corporal and two infantrymen are in custody in military prison and have been charged with homicide, the Defence Department said in a statement.
Mexico’s military was already under scrutiny for this year’s killings of two brothers, ages 5 and 9, on a highway in Tamaulipas, a state bordering Nuevo Leon.
The National Human Rights Commission has accused soldiers of shooting the children and altering the scene to try to pin the deaths on drug cartel gunmen.
The army denies the allegations and says the boys were killed in the crossfire of a shootout between soldiers and suspected traffickers.
The scandal renewed demands from activists that civilian authorities, not the army, investigate human rights cases involving the military.