A leader of Mexico’s powerful Gulf drug cartel has been shot dead by security forces in a town near the US border, the Mexican military says.
Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, known as «Tony Tormenta», was killed in the city of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville in Texas. He is the brother of former Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas, who was extradited to the US in 2007. Residents in Matamoros spoke of a shoot-out lasting for several hours. Three suspected gunmen and two marines were also killed in the gun battle, according to federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire. A local journalist also died in the crossfire, Mexican media reported. Cardenas, 48, had been indicted in the US on drugs charges, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration was offering a reward of up to $5m for his arrest. He was accused of smuggling tonnes of drugs across the US/Mexico border over the past decade. Friday’s two-hour shoot-out involved 150 Mexican marines, three helicopters and 17 military vehicles. Local residents were trapped in shops and schools for extended periods and communicated using social networking websites. «Shelter, everyone! Don’t leave your houses please. Pass the word,» one resident posted on Twitter. Bridges across the international border into Texas were closed briefly, as the military used firearms and grenades to tackle suspected cartel members. Lucrative routes The Mexican police and army are struggling to control armed cartels in a number of areas of the country. Several groups are trying to control lucrative drug smuggling routes into the US. More than 28,000 people have died in the drugs war since Mexican President Felipe Calderon ordered the army into the fight in 2006. The policy has had some successes, but that has not led to a decline in the number of killings, or the level of kidnappings, extortion and human trafficking that the gangs also engage in.