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Sunday, 10 March, 2002, 04:27 GMT
Mexico seizes top drugs suspect
One of Mexico's most wanted drugs-trafficking suspects, Benjamin Arellano Felix, has been arrested in the city of Puebla.

Mexican army special forces swooped on a house in the city, about 100 km from the capital, early on Saturday.

It's like cutting off the head of an ugly monster, we hope now that the rest of the body will just shrivel up and dry up

US DEA Deputy Administrator

As well as arresting Benjamin Arellano Felix, they found evidence that his brother, Ramon, had died in a gun battle last month.

Based in Tijuana, the Arellano Felix brothers were among the most feared alleged drugs-traffickers in Mexico and were also wanted by the FBI in the United States.

Benjamin Arellano Felix was captured without a shot, the Mexican justice and defence departments said in a joint statement.

He was taken to a "safe location" in Mexico City, Mexican Defense Secretary Ricardo Clemente Vega Garcia said.

He will face charges in Mexico, but could then be extradited to the United States to face an indictment in the Californian district of San Diego.

At the house where he was arrested, an "altar" to his brother Ramon was discovered.

This appeared to be final proof that the younger brother had indeed been killed in a gun battle with police in the coastal city of Mazatlan on 10 February, the Mexican joint statement said.

Catalogue of violence

John Brown III, deputy administrator of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), told the BBC that the arrest was a "great day for law enforcement".

Benjamin Arellano Felix
Benjamin Arellano Felix: suspected cocaine baron
"It's like cutting off the head of an ugly monster," he said. "We hope now that the rest of the body will just shrivel up and dry up."

He said the gang had been responsible for delivering hundreds of tons of drugs to southern California, from where it was distributed throughout the US.

He added that the DEA would now have to be vigilant to prevent some other criminal organisation from moving in on the Arellano Felix turf.

The gang the brothers are believed to have led is suspected of over 300 murders.

Victims include the Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, shot to death at Guadalajara airport in 1993 after the gunmen apparently confused his car with that of a rival.

In one 1996 killing in Tijuana, gunmen shot a state prosecutor more than 100 times outside his home and then drove their van over his body dozens of times.

The BBC's David Willis
"It is great victory for law enforcement"
DEA Deputy Administrator John Brown III
"It's like cutting off the head of an ugly monster"
See also:

08 Jun 00 | Americas
Mexico's most feared family
25 Feb 02 | Americas
Mexican drug lord 'killed'
11 Jul 01 | Americas
Wanted 'hit man' found in jail
09 Jun 00 | World
Drugs: A global business
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