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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 22:50 GMT
Key Mexican drugs boss arrested
Mexican army soldiers patrol a road near the town of Aguililla, Mexico
Thousands of Mexican troops have been patrolling Michoacan state
Mexican police say they have detained one of the main leaders of a drugs cartel in Apatzingan in the western state of Michoacan.

The arrest of Alfonso Barajas - also known as Ugly Poncho - came after President Felipe Calderon sent 4,000 troops to restore order in the state.

Rival drug-trafficking gangs control parts of Michoacan state and several northern states, correspondents say.

Fighting between them has claimed over 500 lives in the region this year.

Michoacan has become a key air and sea transit point for cocaine, amphetamines and heroin bound for the United States.

Hired killers

Alfonso Barajas - the alleged head of the Gulf drug cartel - leads a team of gunmen, known as the "Zetas", whose job is to fight rival gangs on behalf of the Gulf cartel, police say.

These hired killers include soldiers from the Mexican and Guatemalan armies, Efe news agency reports.

"In this struggle we won't skimp on forces and resources to take on crime and establish minimum conditions of order and authority," Interior Minister Francisco Ramirez told Reuters news agency.

The arrest of Alfonso Barajas comes during a government crackdown on lawlessness and drug-related violence in the region.

Last Monday, President Felipe Calderon ordered thousands of soldiers and state and federal police to patrol the area.

Soldiers also destroyed marijuana and opium plantations.

Correspondents say the move to curb the violence in his home state is President Calderon's first major initiative since his inauguration earlier this month.


SEE ALSO
Mexico launches drugs crackdown
12 Dec 06 |  Americas
Mexico troops sent to fight drugs
12 Dec 06 |  Americas
Human heads dumped in Mexico bar
07 Sep 06 |  Americas
Mexico arrests 'drug cartel head'
22 Nov 05 |  Americas
Gang wars plague Mexican drugs hub
14 Aug 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Mexico
01 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

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