August 16, 2006

US arrests top Mexican drug lord

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials have arrested Javier
Arellano Felix, a leader of one of Mexico's most feared drug
cartels, a federal law enforcement official said on Wednesday.

The official gave few details of the arrest, which took
place on a boat at sea and included other people believed to be
part of the same organization. Further information was due to
be released at a news conference at the U.S. Justice Department
at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT).

The Arellano Felix family gang was once Mexico's most
powerful and feared drug cartel, running a vast smuggling
operation out of the gritty border city of Tijuana.

It lost some of its power in 2002, when its ruthless
enforcer, Ramon Arellano Felix, was killed in a shootout with
police and his brother, Benjamin, the cartel's mastermind, was
arrested weeks later.

Still, anti-narotics experts say the family is still very
much in business and has cut deals with the Gulf cartel based
in Mexico's northeastern state of Tamaulipas.

Members of the Arellano Felix organization, including
Javier, were indicted in the United States in 2003 for
racketeering, conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and
marijuana and money laundering. The U.S. government had offered
a reward of up to $5 million for information on Javier Arellano
Felix and others.

Turf wars across Mexico claimed more than 1,000 lives in
the last year.

(additional reporting by Kieran Murray in Mexico City)