March 21, 2009 / 2:17 AM / 11 years ago

Mexico captures "drug lord" accused of U.S. attack

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Soldiers on Friday captured a man Mexico calls a drug kingpin who is accused of attacking a U.S. consulate and killing nine soldiers, in the second major arrest this week in the country’s drug war.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon speaks during a dinner in honour of Norway's visiting Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit at Chapultepec castle in Mexico City, March 19, 2009. REUTERS/Henry Romero

President Felipe Calderon said soldiers seized Sigifredo Najera, a leader of the ruthless Gulf cartel, in the northern city of Saltillo near Texas.

“He is directly responsible for the torture and killing of the soldiers, the attacks on the U.S. consulate and Televisa (TV broadcaster) in Monterrey,” Calderon said in a speech in the Mexican capital.

Mexico is facing brutal violence between rival drug gangs and the army in a battle that killed 6,300 people last year.

The violence is hurting the economy just as Mexico heads into recession amid the global economic crisis. The United States is concerned the violence could spill over its border.

Calderon, a strong-willed conservative, launched his military assault on cartels at the end of 2006 and despite major drug seizures and arrests, violence is escalating.

In October, gunmen shot at the U.S. consulate in Monterrey and threw a grenade that did not explode.

The attacks came as nine soldiers were killed over several days in the same month in Monterrey, a prosperous manufacturing and services city close to the U.S. border that has seen a spike in drug violence over the past six months.

In January, gunmen threw a grenade and opened fire outside the regional studios of Mexico’s top broadcaster Televisa during an evening broadcast in Monterrey.

In a boost for Calderon, Mexico on Thursday arrested the son of top Sinaloan kingpin Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who is wanted in the United States.

El Mayo runs the ruthless Sinaloa coalition along with the country’s most-wanted fugitive, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman. Last week, Forbes Magazine estimated Guzman’s wealth at $1 billion.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; editing by Todd Eastham

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