Friday 19 January 2018

Mexican drug lord killed as running battles close border city

Philip Sherwell

Mexican drug baron Antonio 'Tony the Storm' Ezequiel Cárdenas has been killed in a raging firefight at the US border between government security forces and gunmen from the Gulf narcotics cartel.

Ezequiel, one of Mexico's most wanted drug lords, died during the running battles that lasted several hours as terrified locals hid behind locked doors in the city of Matamoros, just across the frontier from Brownsville, Texas.

Backed by helicopter support, 150 Mexican marines exchanged fire with snipers and gunmen moving through abandoned streets in trucks as they closed in on the hideout of Cárdenas.

Three marines and four gunmen were killed in the battles and a local reporter died after being shot in crossfire.

Cárdenas, 48, who had a $5m (€3.6m) US bounty on his head, was nicknamed "Tony Tormenta" for his reputation for torturing and beheading rivals. He replaced his brother Osiel at the helm of the Gulf cartel after he was arrested and extradited to the US in 2007.

He is the latest narco-boss to be killed or captured by the Mexican authorities in their war with the drug gangs that run the lucrative cocaine trafficking operations into the US.

"Today, we have taken another meaningful step toward the dismantling of criminal groups that do so much damage to our country," said Alejandro Poire, presidential security spokesman.

But those recent successes have done little to diminish the bloodshed as rival cartels fight out their brutal turf war.

More than 28,000 people have been killed across Mexico in drug-related violence since December 2006, when the newly-elected President Felipe Calderón launched his crackdown.

Relatives of 20 worker from Michoacán who went missing on a tourist trip to the resort city of Acapulco on Friday identified remains found buried in a mass grave.

And within hours of Cárdenas' death, gangs set up roadblocks and set cars on fire near the colonial city of Morelia in western Mexico after soldiers captured a local cartel leader.

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