Mexico nabs cartel kingpin blamed for 600 murders

TOLUCA, Mexico,  (Reuters) – The alleged leader of an  extremely violent breakaway Mexican drug cartel who ordered the  shootings and beheadings of 600 people has been arrested,  authorities said yesterday.

Oscar Garcia Montoya, the alleged leader of the “Mano con  Ojos” or “Hand with Eyes” organization, was arrested by police  in the central state of Mexico, which surrounds the sprawling  Mexican capital, prosecutors said.

The gang spread terror by dumping severed heads in the  streets of towns surrounding Mexico City. It broke away from  the powerful Beltran Leyva drug cartel, which operated in  central and northeast Mexico.

Alfredo Castillo, the prosecutor for the state of Mexico,  said Garcia was a former corporal in the Mexican Marines and a  one-time police officer in northern Mexico, who personally  murdered hundreds of rivals.

“He has admitted to taking part personally in 300  executions, and ordering another 300,” Castillo told a news  conference.

More than 42,000 people have been killed in raging drug  violence since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006  and sent the military to crush cartels.

The crackdown has led to the spin off of numerous smaller  cartels, which are often characterized by their extreme  violence as they fight to carve out turf.

News reports said the Hand with Eyes gang had been locked  in a brutal battle with the Central Cartel to control territory  in and around Mexico City.

Garcia allegedly worked closely with late cartel leader  Arturo Beltran, who was killed in a gun battle with the Mexican  Marines in December 2009, Castillo said.

He was trained to kill by former members of an elite  Guatemalan commando unit dubbed the Kaibiles, whose famed  brutality has made them sought-after recruits for Mexico’s  warring cartels.

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