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Mexico arrests 17 people, including 'El Kilo', in connection with massacre

posted 18 Apr 2011, 09:10 by Mpelembe   [ updated 18 Apr 2011, 09:12 ]

Mexico arrests 17 suspects in connection with mass graves from drug war's biggest massacre.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (APRIL 17, 2011) REUTERS - Mexican authorities arrested at least 17 suspects, including Zetas' local boss Martin Omar "El Kilo" Estrada Luna, so far in connection with the murders of dozens of people found in mass graves in the northern state of Tamaulipas.

The military said Estrada, who was nabbed on Saturday by marines, was behind the murders of 72

immigrants found at a Tamaulipas ranch in August and the murders of almost 150 people recently found in mass graves. "El Kilo is allegedly responsible for the kidnapping and murder of a large number of people who were found in hidden graves in this state (Tamaulipas)," said Navy Spokesman Jose Luis Vergara Ibarra.

Nearly 150 bodies were unearthed since last week in graves that have become a stain on the name of Tamaulipas along the country's northern border.

Relatives are still identifying the victims of the worst mass killings in Mexico's drug war but authorities believe many of the victims were hauled off buses by hitmen and murdered by the feared Zetas cartel.

Vergara Ibarra said the federal government reward incentive had led them to the suspects.

"The Attorney General continues to guarantee its reward program for organized crime, kidnapping and violation of federal laws on weapons and explosives, and (for those) allegedly responsible for the execution of 72 undocumented migrants found in August of last year in the municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas," he said.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is struggling to avert a collapse of law and order in Tamaulipas, home to natural gas fields near the Gulf of Mexico, as the Zetas fight the powerful Gulf cartel for smuggling routes and extend their control over large areas, infiltrating police and local governments.

The roads of Tamaulipas are a major thoroughfare for buses that gangs are now hijacking, kidnapping passengers for ransom and forcing some to join the gangs.

Since a sizable number of the victims were migrants, the massacres are undermining the president's claims that most drug war victims are criminals.

The slayings in Tamaulipas are a bitter blow to the government's efforts to reassure Washington and the rest of the world that it is winning the war against the cartels that Calderon launched on taking office in December 2006.

More than 37,000 people have died in the violence over the past four years, hurting the hopes of Calderon's conservatives of retaining the presidency in elections next year.