Mexican security forces have arrested drug cartel leader Eduardo Arellano Felix, one of the international traffickers most sought by the United States, after a shootout in the violent border city of Tijuana, the government said yesterday.
Arellano Felix, nicknamed "The Doctor," was a senior member of a family cartel embroiled in a violent struggle for control of the lucrative drug trade that has killed more than 3,700 people in Mexico this year, including 450 in Tijuana.
He ran the cartel with his sister Enedina, the only main suspect from the family who remains at large after several brothers were arrested or killed.
Police arrested Arellano Felix on Saturday after they chased his car to a three-story home in an upscale neighborhood, said the federal police in Tijuana. A three-hour gunbattle with more than 100 police and soldiers ensued, leaving the home riddled with bullet holes.
Arellano Felix's 11-year-old daughter, who was in the house at the time and living under a false name, was unharmed, the police said.
"We could say that the generation that gave birth to this criminal group has been eradicated," said Facundo Rosas, deputy public security minister, at a news conference in Mexico City.
The United States indicted Arellano Felix in 2003 on drug smuggling and money laundering charges and had offered a reward of up to $5 million for his capture.
President Felipe Calderon has sent tens of thousands of troops and federal police to fight escalating drug violence since late 2006 but arrests of major cartel leaders have been few.
The Arellano Felix family dominated the smuggling of cocaine and marijuana into California in the 1990s and was feared for its ruthless elimination of enemies.
Francisco Arellano Felix, Eduardo's youngest brother, was sentenced to life in prison in the United States in November after being captured while deep sea fishing off Mexico. Mexican authorities agreed in June to extradite another brother, Benjamin, to the United States to face smuggling charges.
The weakening of the family has led other Mexican drug cartels to move in on Tijuana, transforming the city from a playground for US tourists into a major battleground in Mexico's drug war.
The rival gangs have adopted increasingly gruesome tactics, including beheading and mutilating their victims and dumping dozens of bodies in view of schools and other public places.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Mexico last week to discuss the drug war and said $465 million in aid for Mexico and Central America to purchase equipment and train anti-drug police would soon be released.Reuse content