Mexico City: Police Arrest Seven Suspected Hitmen Over Acapulco Slayings: UPDATED

24 Jan

 

AFP/File – File photo shows marines manning a checkpoint in Apatzingan, Michoacan State, Mexico. Ten alleged drug …

Mexico Drug War Slideshow:Mexico Drug War

By Robert Campbell Robert Campbell :

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican federal police have arrested seven drug gang members in the Pacific port of Acapulco, including the man behind the murders of 22 people in the resort this month, the government said on Sunday.

The group is a splinter faction of the Beltran Leyva cartel, which has fragmented since Mexican marines killed its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, in December 2009, the federal police said in a statement. Police said the group’s leader, Jose Lozano, was behind the 22 Acapulco murders.

The police did not provide other details or explain why the arrests, which occurred on Thursday, were not announced until Sunday.

Clashes between rival gangs seeking to control the flow of drugs through Acapulco have alarmed business leaders who worry the escalating violence will strangle the tourism industry.

Acapulco mainly caters to Mexican tourists, while resorts like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta are popular with foreign visitors. But the gory headlines have prompted fears foreigners will shy away from Mexico.

Fifteen bodies, some of which were decapitated, were dumped throughout Acapulco earlier this month.

Lozano’s gang is also believed to be linked to the September murders of 20 Mexican mechanics visiting from the state of Michoacan, the police said.

More than 34,000 people have died in drug-related violence across Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched an army-led crackdown on the cartels upon taking office in December 2006.

Several cruise lines recently discontinued some service to Mexico, but the government has been anxious to highlight the continued popularity of the country as a tourist destination.

The number of visitors arriving by air in the first 11 months of 2010 rose 16.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to the tourism ministry.

(Reporting by Robert Campbell and Tomas Sarmiento, editing by Stacey Joyce)

NEWS UPDATE:

Police have nabbed the head of a criminal gang believed to be responsible for the killing of more than 20 people in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco, officials said Sunday.

A municipal police officer runs during a confrontation with members of a gang in the …More Enlarge photo

Jose Lozano Martinez, who goes by the nickname “El Lozano,” was arrested along with six others on Thursday in a raid, they said.

Public security officials said the 21-year-old had acknowledged participating in the killing of 22 people earlier this month in Acapulco.

He and his associates are linked to the so-called Independent Acapulco Cartel (CIDA), which was led by Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias “La Barbie,” until he was arrested on August 30.

The Acapulco gang is in a bloody turf war with other cartels for control of the lucrative narcotics trade. The battle has killed some 30 people this month, including 15 who were found beheaded in the beach resort.

Some 34,600 people have been killed since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a clampdown on the country’s powerful gangs involving tens of thousands of troops, according to official figures.

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