MEXICO CITY — One of the main operators in a drug cartel war that devastated the border city of Tijuana was captured by federal troops after he opened fire on a car carrying two rivals over the weekend, officials said Monday.
Juan Francisco Sillas Rocha, 34, allegedly reported directly to the head of the Arellano Felix cartel, which controlled the smuggling of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs through the cities of Tijuana and Mexicali into the United States during the 1990s, according to Mexican officials.
The cartel was weakened in the last decade by the capture or killing of the brothers who led it. The powerful Sinaloa Cartel, which controls many of the smuggling routes along the border, has reportedly tried to seize control of criminal activities in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, California.
Fernando "The Engineer" Sanchez Arellano, a nephew who now heads the Arellano Felix cartel, ordered Sillas to regain control of Tijuana from rival leader Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental, who had broken from the Arellano Felix group and reportedly rose through the Sinaloa ranks by ordering bodies dissolved in vats of lye.
Fighting between the factions sent violence skyrocketing in Tijuana from 2007 to 2009, and decapitations, hangings and daylight shootouts had became common.
Violence subsided considerably after Simental's arrest in January 2010, although attacks still occur regularly.
Army spokesman Col. Ricardo Trevilla said Sillas shot and wounded two unidentified rivals driving through Tijuana on Saturday.Police and soldiers captured him after cordoning off the area.
Sillas, who was paraded before a press conference Monday, is presumed responsible for the 2010 kidnapping of three women in the family of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, who leads the Sinaloa cartel along with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, one of the most-wanted men in the world. Sillas was believed to be retaliating for the disappearance of his sister that year.
Trevilla said Sillas' arrest will "considerably affect the Arellano Felix organization's criminal activities."
Also Monday, police found the heads of two men in a residential area of Mexico City.
The heads were left on a corner in Tacuba neighborhood. Police found the bodies inside a stolen car not far from there, prosecutors said in a statement.
Prosecutors said police also found a threatening note but they wouldn't reveal its content.
Authorities say a spate of killings and decapitations in the capital that began late last year comes from street gangs fighting for an increasingly lucrative local drug market.