x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Police catch alleged Mexican drug chief who ordered 1,500 killings

Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, said by Mexican police to be head of a gang of hit-men and corrupt police officers, is also a suspect in last year's killing of a US consulate employee.

MEXICO CITY // A former police officer who allegedly admits ordering 1,500 killings during a campaign of terror as a drug gang chieftain along the US border has been captured in northern Mexico, federal officials said.

Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez is also a suspect in last year's killing of a US consulate employee near a border crossing in Ciudad Juarez.

The Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, said through his Twitter account that Mr Acosta's capture is "the biggest blow" to organised crime in Ciudad Juarez since he sent about 5,000 federal police to the city in April 2010 to try to curb violence in one of the world's most dangerous cities.

Mr Acosta, 33, was caught on Friday in the northern city of Chihuahua along with his bodyguard, said Ramon Pequeno, the head of the federal police anti-drug unit. Without offering details on the capture, he said the US Drug Enforcement Administration helped by providing information. Mr Acosta's arrest was not confirmed until Sunday, just before officials displayed him to journalists in Mexico City.

Wearing a long-sleeve dress shirt, Mr Acosta, a short man with a cleft chin and thick eyebrows limped as he was escorted by two masked federal police officers to stand before the cameras.

Mr Pequeno said at the news conference that Mr Acosta, nicknamed "El Diego," told federal police he ordered 1,500 killings. Investigators believe he was the mastermind of an attack last year that killed a US consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another consulate worker in Ciudad Juarez, he said.

US prosecutors also want to try him in that case. A federal indictment filed in the western district of Texas says Mr Acosta and nine others conspired to kill the three.

Mr Pequeno said he expects an extradition request from the US government.

Mexican authorities have identified Mr Acosta as head of La Linea, a gang of hit-men and corrupt police officers who act as enforcers for the Juarez Cartel.