Mexico's most wanted drug kingpin caught

Mexico's most wanted drug kingpin caught
Mexican drug lord Servando ''La Tuta'' Gomez speaks as he tapes messages in Michoacan in this still image taken from an undated file video.

MEXICO CITY - Mexico captured its most wanted drug lord on Friday, former primary school teacher Servando "La Tuta" Gomez, and delivered a boost to a government battered by gang violence.

The 49-year-old gang boss was the prime target of President Enrique Peña Nieto's effort to regain control of Michoacan, a western state wracked by clashes between Gomez's Knights Templar cartel and armed vigilantes trying to oust them.

The arrest comes as Peña Nieto seeks to quell public outrage in Mexico after the late September abduction and apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers by corrupt police in league with gang members.

That incident triggered Peña Nieto's deepest crisis. Attorney General Jesus Murillo, under fire for months over his handling of that investigation, will step down, a senior government official said on Friday.

An announcement about the change would probably come later on Friday, said another official, from Murillo's office.

After months of intelligence work, federal police said they captured Gomez and some people with him early in the morning at a house in the Michoacan state capital of Morelia. However, some local media said he was caught while eating at a hotdog stand.

Police said no shots were fired.

A police spokesman said Gomez would be brought to Mexico City later in the day to make a declaration.

Hitting the campaign trail ahead of local elections, Peña Nieto on Friday paid tribute to Mexico's security forces for capturing "a criminal who was so wanted and who had generated an atmosphere of uncertainty and immense criminality."

Last week, police seized many properties in the area and arrested a handful of people connected to Gomez. Local media reported that those busts had led to his arrest.

A father of at least seven, Gomez is wanted by the United States for trafficking methamphetamine and cocaine. The Justice Department said he was also involved in the 2009 murder of 12 Mexican federal police officers.

Mexican authorities had placed a bounty of 30 million pesos ($2 million) on his head.

Antonio Mazzitelli, Mexico's representative to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said that although Gomez became less powerful after the capture of many of his lieutenants, the arrest was still welcome news.

"He was a fugitive, living in the jungle," Mazzitelli said. "But it's an important step in terms of (Peña Nieto's) credibility."

Since the Mexican government began a military crackdown on drug cartels in 2007, more than 100,000 people have been killed in gang-related violence.

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