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Reputed Mexican drug lord Teodoro Garcia Simental is captured

By Elliot Spagat
Wednesday, January 13, 2010; A12

TIJUANA, MEXICO -- Federal troops stormed a seaside vacation home and captured one of the country's most brutal drug lords Tuesday, officials said, the second time in less than a month that Mexico has taken down one of its most powerful traffickers.

The arrest was considered another victory for enhanced electronic surveillance techniques that are being cultivated with the assistance of the United States. U.S. anti-drug officials had been helping Mexican authorities track Teodoro García Simental for more than five months.

García, known as "El Teo," was arrested before dawn near the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, where his gang had been bringing in planeloads of drugs to smuggle across the U.S. border, said Ramón Eduardo Pequeño, head of the federal police agency's anti-drug unit.

García, in his mid-30s, is connected to the deaths of at least 300 people, authorities say, and ordered his rivals disposed of in especially grisly ways: beheading them, hanging their bodies from bridges or dissolving them in caustic soda.

He is also believed to be behind many of the dozens of assassinations of Tijuana police officers in the last two years. Pequeño said García had recently stepped up efforts to kill Baja California's attorney general, Rommel Morena, and Tijuana's public safety chief, Julián Leyzaola.

President Felipe Calderón launched an all-out war against Mexico's drug cartels upon taking office in December 2006, sending out thousands of troops. But until recently the government had little success in taking down the top kingpins, and Mexicans have been growing increasingly frustrated with a war that has left more than 15,000 casualties.

That changed on Dec. 16 when drug lord Arturo Beltrán Leyva was killed in a raid by Mexican marines in the colonial city of Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City. Authorities said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials had been helping them track Beltrán Leyva as well. On Jan. 2, federal officials arrested his brother, Carlos Beltrán Leyva.

-- Associated Press

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