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Latin America

Alleged Leader Of Zetas Cartel In Cancun Arrested

Heavily armed Mexican soldiers have arrested the alleged leader of the Zetas drug cartel in the vacation resort city of Cancun, Mexican officials.

Jose Angel Fernandez and three alleged accomplices were detained in a raid Friday. Troops seized three rifles, nearly $144,000 in cash and a payroll list for people who apparently worked for the Zetas, the statement said.

A Defense Department statement said Fernandez, also known as "El Pelon," or "Baldy," is suspected in last month's fire-bombing of a bar that killed eight people.

Fernandez is being questioned by authorities following his arrest with three other people in Cancun, where the military says he oversaw drug trafficking and enforcement for the Zetas. He also allegedly ran an extortion ring and ordered a Molotov cocktail attack on the bar on Aug. 31 because its owners refused to pay protection money. Six women and two men died of smoke inhalation or burns.

The Zetas are special forces deserters from the Mexican army who worked as assassins for the Gulf drug cartel in Northern Mexico. They later broke away to form their own criminal enterprise and have rapidly spread from the north to the south of Mexico.

Cancun has largely avoided Mexico's drug violence, in which more than 28,000 people have died since late 2006. However, drug cartels and immigrant traffickers operate in the area.

James Blears reported for NPR from Mexico City for this story, which also contains material from The Associated Press.