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Mexico nabs drug cartel's top gunman

Notorious "El Capo" loses bodyguard

Mexican authorities on Monday announced the arrest of a top member of the Sinaloa Cartel thought to be responsible for the personal security of the drug organization's notorious leader Joaquín "El Capo" Guzmán.

Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, alias "el Inge," was also responsible for the cartel's drug trafficking organization in Durango and Baja California, two Mexican states plagued by heavy violence from the bloody battles between the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas hitmen.

"With this successful action by military personal, the leadership structure and the operation capacity" of the Sinaloa Cartel "has suffered a great blow," said National Defense Secretariat (Sedena) spokesman General Ricardo Trevilla. Cabrera Sarabia was captured on December 23 in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa state, after he tried to flee, but wasn't paraded before the press until Monday at the Attorney General's Office in Mexico City.

It was the second such blow to the powerful Sinaloa Cartel following the capture in November of Noel Salgueiro Nevares, alias "el flaco Salgueiro," the alleged leader of a group of powerful traffickers within the cartel called the "New Generation." Salgueiro Nevares helped take over the drug routes in Chihuahua state, particularly in Ciudad Juárez, on the border with San Diego, California.

"They both controlled the drug trafficking in all its aspects in their respective areas," said Trevilla.

The captured suspects worked for "El Capo" Guzmán, one of the most sought after drug kingpins by the Mexican and US authorities. He has been a fugitive since 2001 when he escaped from a high security prison by hiding in a laundry cart.

According to Trevilla, Cabrera Sarabia got his start in the drug business growing marijuana with his three brothers. He helped Guzmán keep control of his organization in Durango and Baja California by terrorizing rivals. However, in recent months, his New Generation members began battling with another group affiliated with the Sinaloa Cartel called "Ms."

In April, law enforcement authorities began finding clandestine common graves in which 287 bodies have so far been uncovered from 14 areas.

In a related matter, Mexican authorities on December 21 extradited a suspect wanted in the United States in connection with the murder of a US law enforcement official.

Julian Zapata Espinoza, also known as "Piolín," will face charges for his alleged participation in the murder of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Víctor Ávila on February 15 in Mexico, the US Justice Department announced.

Zapata Espinoza was indicted in April by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on four counts in connection to the crime. The indictment was unsealed after Zapata Espinoza was brought to the United States. "The extradition of Julian Zapata Espinoza to face charges in the US is a significant development in the ongoing investigation into the murder of Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attack on Special Agent Víctor Ávila," said Kevin Perkins, assistant director for the FBI criminal investigations. Zapata Espinoza will appear before a federal judge next month.

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