MEXICO CITY — Mexican marines have captured one of the world’s most notorious drug-gang leaders in a raid near the US border.
Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, 40, head of the brutal Zetas cartel, was intercepted with two lieutenants in a pick-up truck near Nuevo Laredo.
Mexican officials said he had eight guns and $2 million in cash.
Trevino Morales, infamous for his brutality, was wanted on both sides of the border for ordering massacres and running drugs on a global scale.
He took control of the Zetas following the death of group founder Heriberto Lazcano in October 2012.
His capture is the highest-profile arrest since President Enrique Pena Nieto came to office last December.
Pena Nieto promised to change the policy of the previous government by tackling the cartels through law enforcement on a local level rather than the capture of big-name targets.
Ex-President Felipe Calderon had deployed the army across the country and pursued the leaders of the cartels.
Although the policy eliminated many senior criminal figures, it also created power vacuums that helped fuel the violence.
Trevino Morales, known as “Zeta-40”, was captured outside Nuevo Laredo, near the US border at dawn on Monday, government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told a news conference.
“Three people in the truck were detained by ground troops, who had arrived to support the naval forces, who had carried out the detention via the helicopter. Not a single shot was fired,” he said.
It is thought the authorities were acting on a tip-off.
The Zetas began as the enforcement arm of the Gulf cartel, another powerful criminal gang.
They were made up of defectors from an elite military unit and quickly became infamous for their brutality, which included the beheadings of kidnapped migrants and rival gang members.
Trevino Morales was unlike most of the Zetas because he was a civilian who worked his way up through the ranks.
The Zetas split from the Gulf cartel in 2010, sparking brutal turf wars across northern Mexico.
By 2012, they were reputed to be the largest and most powerful cartel. (BBC)