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Navy kills top Zetas boss; body promptly vanishes

October 9, 2012

One of Mexico’s most feared and violent criminal gangs was dealt a bitter blow when marines shot dead its highest ranking leader in Coahuila on Sunday.

The alleged head of Los Zetas, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alias “El Lazca,” was killed along with an associate in a shootout with the navy in the town of Progreso at around 1.30 p.m. However, both bodies then went missing before authorities could even announce this major achievement.

A group of masked and heavily-armed assailants seized the corpses from the Garcia morgue in the town of Sabinas, Coahuila Attorney General Homero Ramos revealed on Tuesday. The navy then confirmed that Lazcano was one of the dead, citing fingerprints and photographs taken before the theft of his body.

Ramos said the navy received an anonymous tip-off on Sunday that Lazcano was watching a game of baseball. The two suspects fled when the military arrived, throwing grenades to deter their pursuers, before they received fatal bullet wounds. A navy spokesperson said that two rifles, a grenade launcher, 12 grenades and a rocket launcher were recovered in the operation.

A former member of an elite Mexican Army unit, Lazcano, also known as “Z-3” and “The Executioner,” is believed to have been a founding member of Los Zetas. He is thought to have led one of two factions following a recent split, with Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, alias “Z-40,” heading the other.

The U.S. government had offered a reward of five million dollars for information leading to Lazcano’s capture, while Mexican authorities were also offering a bounty of 2.3 million dollars.

Lazcano is the most prominent of many leading Zetas to have been captured or killed in the last 15 months. Ivan Velazquez Caballero, alias “El Taliban” or “Z-50,” was arrested in San Luis Potosi a fortnight ago, and the navy also detained Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, another regional leader of Los Zetas, in Nuevo Laredo on Saturday.

Martinez has been linked to the escape of 151 prisoners from a Nuevo Laredo jail in 2010, the recent flight of 131 prisoners in Piedras Negras and the 2010 killing of U.S. citizen David Hartley on Falcon Lake beside the U.S. border.

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