Mexican troops capture a top suspect in slayings of 49

Mexican troops capture a top suspect in slayings of 49

POSTED: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 9:00am

UPDATED: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 9:14am

One of the main suspects in the killings of 49 people in northern Mexico received orders from the top leaders of the Zetas cartel, a military official said Monday.

Daniel de Jesus Elizondo Ramirez hurled a grenade and fired at troops with a rifle as they closed in on him, Brig. Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas told reporters. After his capture Friday outside Monterrey, Mexico, he disclosed details of the brutal slayings, Villegas said.

Elizondo, also known as "El Loco" ("The Madman"), is a local leader of the Zetas drug cartel in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon, the northern Mexican city where authorities found the decapitated and dismembered bodies abandoned along a highway last week, Villegas said.

Authorities announced his arrest Sunday and presented him to the media Monday. Orders for abandoning the bodies came from the highest levels of the Zetas, Villegas said, including Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, the group's top leader.

Last week, Mexico's interior minister said the killings were the result of a fierce feud over territory and power between the Zetas and members of the allied Gulf and Sinaloa cartels.

Banners hanging throughout the country, purportedly from the Zetas, said the notoriously ruthless cartel had nothing to do with the gruesome crime.

"This was part of a strategy to blame the actions on opposing criminal organizations ... to cause confusion among authorities and in the public opinion," Villegas said Monday.

The Zetas began with deserters from Mexican special forces, who quickly gained a reputation for ruthless violence as hired assassins for Mexico's Gulf cartel. The partnership between the two criminal groups ended in 2010.

Now, analysts say the Gulf cartel is allied with the Sinaloa cartel, one of the nation's most powerful drug trafficking groups.

-- contributed to this report.

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