Key Mexican drug hitman arrested near U.S. border
TIJUANA, Mexico |
TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) - A key hitman for Mexico's Arellano Felix drug cartel was arrested on Saturday in this crime-ridden border city, in another coup for President Felipe Calderon's clampdown on traffickers.
After an anonymous tip-off, soldiers stormed a house and arrested Alfredo Araujo Avila, also known as Popeye, Tijuana's military chief Gen. German Redondo told reporters.
"He is considered one of the most dangerous hitmen of the Arellano Felix cartel," Gen. Redondo said.
Araujo Avila had dodged arrest for a decade in Tijuana, which is just over the U.S. border from San Diego. He is wanted in the United States for drug trafficking and arms possession.
Mexican authorities filed an arrest warrant for him in 1998, alleging his involvement in the 1993 murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, who was gunned down at the airport of Mexico's second city, Guadalajara.
Araujo Avila was also wanted for allegedly taking part in the 2003 ambush of crusading Mexican drugs reporter Jesus Blancornelas.
The journalist was injured but survived the hail of bullets and named Araujo Avila as one of his attackers in subsequent articles. Blancornelas died of natural causes in 2006.
Calderon has sent more than 25,000 federal police and solders to hunt down drug cartel members near the U.S. border and in other troubled areas around Mexico.
Last Sunday, Mexican troops arrested Alfredo Beltran Leyva, a leading lieutenant of the cartel based in Sinaloa state, run by Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, who escaped from a high-security jail in 2001.
The arrest of Beltran Leyva was considered a victory for Calderon's drug crackdown.
The Arellano Felix cartel is mainly based around the city of Tijuana, which has seen a surge of drug-related violence.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Chris Aspin, editing by Philip Barbara)
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