A reputed Mexican drug cartel chief has been killed in a two-hour shoot-out with security forces, one of the biggest victories yet in President Felipe Calderon's drug war.
Arturo Beltran Leyva, the "boss of bosses," and three members of his cartel were killed in the gun battle with the Mexican navy on Wednesday in Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City, according to a navy statement.
A fifth cartel member committed suicide during the shoot-out. Cartel gunmen hurled grenades that injured three sailors, the navy said.
During the shoot-out, sailors went door-to-door to evacuate residents of an apartment complex to the gym, according to a resident.
Beltran Levya is the highest-ranking figure taken down under President Calderon, who has deployed more than 45,000 troops across Mexico to crush the cartels since taking office in December 2006. The offensive has earned Mr Calderon praise from Washington even as 14,000 people have been killed in a wave of drug-related violence.
The last time Mexican authorities killed a major drug lord was in 2002, when Ramon Arellano Felix of the Tijuana Cartel was shot by a police officer in the Sinaloa resort of Mazatlan.
Beltran Levya was one of five brothers who split from the Sinaloa Cartel several years ago and aligned themselves with Los Zetas, a group of former soldiers hired by the rival Gulf Cartel as hit men. The split is believed to have fuelled much of the bloodshed of recent years. One of the brothers, Alfredo Beltran Leyva, was arrested in January 2008.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration says the Beltran Leyva cartel is key in the importation and distribution of tons of cocaine in the US, as well as large quantities of heroin. Mexico considers the group one of its six major cartels.
The Mexican government had listed Arturo Beltran Leyva as one of its 24 most-wanted drug lords and had offered a 2.1 million dollar (£1.3m) reward for his capture.
US officials said the Beltran Leyva Cartel had carried out horrific killings, including numerous beheadings. The gang has also had great success in buying off public officials, police and others to protect their business and get tips on planned military raids.
December 17, 2009
Mexican drugs cartel boss killed