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MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

2 suspected drug gang leaders held in Tijuana

Raydel Lopez Uriarte and Manuel Garcia Simental are believed to be top lieutenants in a cartel blamed for a string of massacres, police killings, beheadings and kidnappings in Tijuana.

February 09, 2010|By Richard Marosi

Two reputed leaders of a drug cartel that waged a years-long campaign of terror in Tijuana were arrested Monday in the Baja California port city of La Paz, according to U.S. authorities.

Raydel Lopez Uriarte and Manuel Garcia Simental are believed to be top lieutenants of a gang blamed for a string of massacres, police killings, beheadings and kidnappings that has caused many residents to flee the border city.

The arrests by Mexican federal police, coming a month after the capture of alleged cartel leader Teodoro Garcia Simental, are the latest blows against the gang.

Authorities feared Lopez Uriarte and Manuel Garcia Simental, Teodoro's younger brother, were planning to reignite a gang war for control of Tijuana's drug trafficking routes.

Lopez Uriarte was known for his narrow escapes and flair for self-promotion: His nickname, "Muletas," or crutches, stands for the trail of disabled people he's left behind, and he outfitted his crew with uniforms featuring a patch designed with a skull and crutches crossed underneath.

At least 1,400 people have been slain in Tijuana drug violence since the beginning of 2008.

richard.marosi @latimes.com

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