Mexico says a top Juarez cartel figure captured

July 31, 2011 - 12:28 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A key drug cartel figure who acknowledged ordering 1,500 killings has been captured in northern Mexico, federal officials said Sunday.

Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez also is a suspect in last year's slaying of a U.S. consulate employee near a border crossing in Ciudad Juarez.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said through his Twitter account that Acosta's capture is "the biggest blow" to organized crime in Ciudad Juarez since he sent about 5,000 federal police to the city in April 2010 to try to curb violence in one of the world's most dangerous cities.

Acosta, 33, was caught Friday in the northern city of Chihuahua, said Ramon Pequeno, head of the federal police anti-drug unit. But the arrest was not confirmed until Sunday, just before officials displayed him to the news media in Mexico City.

Acosta, nicknamed "El Diego," told federal police he ordered 1,500 killings, Pequeno said at the press conference. Investigators believe he was the mastermind of an attack last year that killed a U.S. consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another consulate worker in Ciudad Juarez, he said.

U.S. prosecutors also want to try him in that case. A federal indictment filed in the western district of Texas says Acosta and nine others conspired to kill the three.

Pequeno said he expects an extradition request from the U.S. government.

Mexican authorities have identified Acosta as head of La Linea, a gang of hit men and corrupt police officers who act as enforcers for the Juarez Cartel. Pequeno said Acosta acknowledged he ordered notorious crimes such as the detonation of a July 2010 car bomb and a massacre that killed 15 people, mostly teenagers, at a birthday party, both in Ciudad Juarez.

The Juarez Cartel, allegedly led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, has been losing ground to the Sinaloa drug trafficking organization, headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in a three-year battle over the border city's smuggling corridors. But Carrillo Fuentes and alleged top lieutenant Juan Pablo Ledezma remain at large.