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Lieutenant to Mexico's top alleged drug trafficker captured
Mexico Drug Lord Heal
Mexican federal police officers escort Alfredo Beltran Leyva, known as "El Mochomo, upon his arrival at the Mexico City's airport, Monday, Jan. 21, 2008. Beltran was allegedly in charge of transporting drugs, bribing officials and laundering money for the Sinaloa drug cartel, led by Mexico's most-wanted alleged drug lord Joaquin Guzman. - photo by Associated Press

MEXICO CITY - Mexico's army on Monday captured a top lieutenant of the powerful Sinaloa cartel who allegedly commanded squads of hit men and organized drug shipments north, officials said.

Alfredo Beltran Leyva was arrested in the northwestern city of Culiacan in Sinaloa state, home to the cartel, with two suitcases containing $900,000, an assault rifle, a luxury SUV and 11 expensive watches, the army said.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza calling the arrest "a significant victory."

"When Mexico takes dangerous criminals like Beltran Leyva and his crew off the streets, the people of the United States also benefit," Garza wrote in a statement. "This arrest demonstrates once again the ongoing commitment of President Calderon and his administration to hit the criminal organizations where it hurts."

Army Gen. Luis Arturo Oliver Cen said Beltran Leyva commanded two groups of hit men for the cartel, whose reach extends from the northwestern state of Sonora to the southern state of Oaxaca. He was allegedly in charge of transporting drugs, bribing officials and laundering money for the cartel, which is led by Mexico's most-wanted alleged druglord, Joaquin Guzman.

Beltran Leyva and four of his brothers — Hector, Marcos, Mario and Carlos — are key leaders in Guzman's criminal organization, Oliver Cen said.

Dressed in jeans, a dark jacket and boots, the black-bearded Beltran Leyva was led in handcuffs past reporters at the airport hangar of the Mexican attorney general's office, before authorities flew him by helicopter to an undisclosed location.

Guzman escaped from federal prison in 2001 in a laundry cart after bribing guards.

Beltran Leyva's arrest follows two weeks of bloody confrontations along the U.S.-Mexico border between federal agents and gunmen suspected of working for the Arellano Felix and Gulf cartels, rivals of the Sinaloa.

A high-ranking local police official in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, was shot to death on Monday outside his home by unidentified gunmen — the second killing of a policeman there in two days.

Francisco Ledezma Salazar, operations coordinator for the Ciudad Juarez police, had been leaving for work when gunmen sprayed his SUV with bullets.

Police were still investigating his killing, city Public Safety Secretary Guillermo Prieto Quintana said.

On Sunday, police Capt. Julian Chairez Hernandez was shot to death in his patrol car.


Associated Press Writer Marina Montemayor in Ciudad Juarez contributed.

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