MEXICO CITY - A Mexican drug lord mistakenly reported dead more than three years ago was killed Sunday in a clash with armed forces in western Mexico, officials said.
The killing of Nazario Moreno, nicknamed "El Mas Loco" or "the Craziest One," is another coup in Mexico City's battle against organised crime, following the arrest last month of the world's most wanted and single most powerful drug lord.
Soldiers discovered Moreno early Sunday near a town in western Michoacan state and tried to arrest him, said Monte Alejandro Rubido, the executive secretary of Mexico's National Public Security System.
"But he attacked the federal forces, who were forced to repel the aggression, thus killing the presumed criminal," Rubido said at a press conference, giving no further details of the incident.
Authorities spent most of the day seeking to confirm that the dead man was indeed Moreno, the founder of the La Familia drug gang and a leader in its spinoff group, the Knights Templar.
The criminal's identity was confirmed by comparing his fingerprints with those they had on file, the authorities said. To be extra sure, they are also carrying out genetic testing on the body.
Back from the dead
La Familia burst onto the scene in 2006 when gang members rolled five severed heads onto a nightclub dance floor. Their message was: "The only ones to die are those who should die."
The previous Mexican administration of President Felipe Calderon announced in December 2010 that Moreno was killed in a gun battle. But his body was never located and reported sightings fueled speculation he was alive.
La Familia crumbled after Moreno's disappearance, leading to the creation of the Knights Templar.
The government deployed more than 9,000 troops and federal police in Michoacan's Tierra Caliente ("hot land") region in January after new gunfights erupted between the cartel and vigilantes.
Michoacan is known as Mexico's lime-and-avocado heartland, but it is also the country's top producer of iron ore, extracting four million tonnes in 2012, or 27 per cent of national output, according to the economy ministry.