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Mexico captures drug suspect on most-wanted list

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ALEXANDRA OLSON | May 22, 2009 01:12 AM EST | AP

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MEXICO CITY — Soldiers have arrested a suspected drug cartel member listed among Mexico's 37 most-wanted traffickers, the Defense Department said Thursday.

Raymundo Almanza Morales was captured Wednesday in the northern city of Monterrey along with three other suspects after soldiers received an tip, the department said in a statement.

Almanza is named as a top lieutenant of the Gulf drug cartel on the list of most-wanted traffickers that the government published in March. His brother, Octavio Almanza, was arrested in February on suspicion of masterminding the killing of an army general in Cancun.

The Defense Department said Octavio Almanza told authorities that his brother had been deployed to oversee drug trafficking operations in Guatemala and Belize. The statement did not say whether that claim turned out to be true, and it gave no further details on Raymundo Almanza's alleged drug trafficking activities.

Defense Department officials said there would be no immediate comment beyond the statement.

Raymundo Almanza was arrested along with three other people, the department said. They were found with five guns and marijuana.

The government had offered a reward of up to 15 million pesos ($1.1 million) for information leading to Raymundo Almanza's arrest, but the Defense Department did not say whether any money had been paid to the citizen who tipped off authorities.

Octavio Almanza allegedly headed the Cancun branch of the Zetas, a group of hit men for the drug cartel in Cancun. He is suspected of orchestrating the killing retired Brig. Gen. Mauro Enrique Tello, who had been hired to root out corruption in the resort town, as well as nine soldiers in Monterrey.

The government of President Felipe Calderon has deployed 45,000 soldiers nationwide in an aggressive battle to crush Mexico's ruthless drug cartels.

Drug violence has surged and become more brutal since the offensive began more than two years ago, claiming more than 10,750 lives. The government attributes the rise in violence in large part to internal gang strife sparked by the arrest of top drug lords.