October 9, 2012 - 11:48 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Top Los Zetas drug cartel leader Heriberto Lazcano has apparently been killed in a shootout in northern Mexico, the country's navy says, according to BBC News.
The navy said it was still awaiting final forensic results, but that the body appeared to be "El Lazca". Lazcano, alias "The Executioner", is a founder of the notorious cartel which has been implicated in a string of mass killings and kidnappings.
His death would be a victory in the fight against cartels, analysts say.
Mexican police believe a recent surge in mass killings is due to a split within the Zetas cartel.
Lazcano is thought to be the leader of one faction, while the other is led by Miguel Angel Trevino Morales.
In the nearly six years of Felipe Calderon's presidency, almost 50,000 people are believed to have died in violence blamed on organized crime.
Two alleged gang members were killed in a gun battle with the navy on Sunday, Oct 7 in the region of Progreso, some 125km west of the Texan border in Coahuila state. The navy said there was "strong evidence" one of the bodies was Lazcano.
"Information was obtained after the first forensics tests were carried out that yielded indications that suggest that one of the bodies is Heriberto Lazcano," according to the navy's statement. "The Navy Department is coordinating efforts with Coahuila state, and will be awaiting the conclusions of the forensics examination in the case," the statement said.
The navy has been at the forefront of operations against drug cartels.
Lazcano is suspected of involvement in hundreds of killings, including that of crusading newspaper editor Francisco Ortiz Franco in 2004.
The U.S. had put up a $5m reward and Mexico another $2.3m for information leading to Lazcano's capture.
On Monday the navy said it had arrested suspected regional Zetas leader, Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, who the navy says was behind the 2010 murder of 72 migrants in northern Tamaulipas state.
Officials say Escobedo works for Trevino Morales.
Trevino Morales, known as Z40, has a reputation for equal if not greater brutality than Lazcano and remains at large.
Police also recently arrested Ivan Velazquez Caballero, known as El Taliban or Z50. He had reportedly been at war with Trevino Morales and was believed to have joined the rival Gulf Cartel.
Gulf Cartel head Jorge Costilla, alias "El Coss", was also captured last month.
Infamous for mass killings and use of extreme violence, the Zetas control whole swathes of north-eastern Mexico.