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Mexican drug lord killed in gun battle with army

Soldiers killed a top leader of the Sinaloa cartel in a raid on his hideout, dealing the biggest blow yet to Mexico's most powerful drug gang since President Felipe Calderon launched a military offensive against organised crime in 2006.

Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, a reputed founder of Mexico's methamphetamine trade, was shot dead as he tried to escape soldiers in the western city of Guadalajara. Mexican authorities says he fired on soldiers as helicopters hovered overhead and troops closed in. "Nacho Coronel tried to escape, and fired on military personnel, killing one soldier and wounding another," said General Edgar Luis Villegas. "Responding to the attack, this 'capo' died."

Coronel was a close associate of Mexico's most wanted man, the Sinaloa cartel's leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and was third in line in the organisation after Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada. Coronel's downfall came amid persistent allegations that President Calderon's administration appeared to be favouring the Sinaloa cartel, or not hitting it as hard as other drug gangs.

Those allegations have drawn angry denials from the President and his top law-enforcement officials, who point to the arrest in 2009 of Vicente "El Vicentillo" Zambada – the son of Ismael Zambada – as proof they were going after the gang.