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Mexico drug cartel leader killed in shootout with authorities

December 16, 2009|By Ken Ellingwood

Reporting from Mexico City — The leader of one of Mexico's most notorious drug cartels was killed during a shootout with Mexican forces Wednesday, authorities said.

Arturo Beltran Leyva, who heads a Sinaloa-based gang, died along with four gunmen during a gunfight with Mexican navy forces in the city of Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City, the navy said in a statement. One of the gunmen committed suicide during the clash.

The Beltran Leyva group has been singled out by U.S. authorities as a major trafficker of cocaine into the United States. Beltran Leyva, known as the "boss of bosses," was listed among Mexico's 24 most wanted drug traffickers. The government had offered a $2-million reward for information leading to his capture.

Beltran Leyva's brother, Alfredo, was arrested early last year and remains in custody.

The gang was once allied with the Sinaloa trafficking organization headed by Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most wanted fugitive, but the two groups fell out, spurring months of violence in Sinaloa that has left hundreds dead during the last two years.

The navy has increasingly joined army troops and federal police in the government's fight against drug gangs.

Three sailors were wounded by grenades during the battle, the navy said.

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

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