Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

After Mexico Kills Gang Leader, an Armed Group Steals the Body

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

After Mexico Kills Gang Leader, an Armed Group Steals the Body

Article excerpt

Heriberto Lazcano, the leader of one of the most violent criminal gangs in the country, was killed Sunday, but in a striking twist an armed group quickly stole the body,

The Mexican Navy confirmed on Tuesday that it had killed Heriberto Lazcano, the founder and the principal leader of the Zetas, one of the most violent criminal gangs to terrorize Mexico in years.

But in a striking twist, an armed group quickly stole the body, a state prosecutor said Tuesday, leaving the authorities struggling to explain how such a major action against Mexican criminal organizations could turn into an illustration of their persistent strength.

The navy said it killed Mr. Lazcano on Sunday afternoon in a battle between marines and men armed with guns and grenades in Coahuila State, in northern Mexico.

His death may be one of President Felipe Calderon's biggest victories against drug and organized-crime groups, and it comes two months before he ends his six-year term with a legacy marked by an escalation of the fight against gangs and their brutal violence.

But even before the navy had announced the death of Mr. Lazcano, a group of heavily armed assailants, with their faces covered, showed up at the funeral home where the body was and took two corpses -- Mr. Lazcano's and that of another person killed in the navy operation. The state prosecutor in Coahuila, Homero Ramos, said the assailants had put the bodies in a hearse and forced the funeral home director to drive it away.

It would not be the first time that powerful Mexican drug gangs had struck back after an apparent victory by the authorities. Gunmen have sprung their allies from jail, rescued them from hospitals, taken away their fallen colleagues from crime scenes and even killed family members of a special forces sailor involved in a successful raid on a top drug lord.

This instance was particularly embarrassing because the authorities had to admit to losing the body even as they touted the killing as a sign that they were making major inroads in controlling the cartels. …

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