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Body Of Mexican Drugs Boss Is Stolen
The body of a top drugs cartel leader has gone missing a day after he was killed in a gunfight with marines in northern Mexico.
The remains of Heriberto Lazcano were stolen from a funeral parlour by an armed group, a state prosecutor said on Tuesday.
The Mexican navy, which conducted the operation against the Zetas leader, known as "El Lazca", said fingerprints and photographs were used to identify the body as Heriberto Lazcano's before it was taken.
The navy said it gave the body to local authorities, but offered no details about its subsequent whereabouts.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency said it was still awaiting confirmation that the drugs lord had been killed.
Lazca's demise will be seen as a major victory for Mexican law enforcement, but the body's immediate disappearance will be viewed as a clear embarassment.
The Zetas cartel that he helped found with other deserters from an elite army unit went on to carry out some of Mexico's bloodiest massacres, biggest jail breaks and fiercest attacks on authorities.
Lazcano, who is also known as "El Verdugo" (the executioner) for his brutality, is suspected of involvement in hundreds of killings, including the June 2004 slaying of Francisco Ortiz Franco, a top editor of a crusading weekly newspaper in Tijuana that often reported on drug trafficking.
Ortiz Franco was murdered in front of his two young children as he left a clinic.
The US had offered a $5m (£3.1m) reward and Mexico an additional $2.3m (£1.4m) for information leading to Lazcano's arrest.
The navy sent out a patrol to investigate the incident, which happened about 80 miles west of the Texas border, near Laredo, after complaints about armed men in the area.
Gunmen tossed grenades at the patrol from a moving vehicle, wounding one of the marines.
Two of the gunmen were killed in the ensuing battle, the navy's statement said.
Authorities found a grenade launcher, 12 grenades, what appeared to be a rocket propelled grenade launcher and two rifles in the gunmen's vehicle.
Under Lazcano's leadership, the Zetas recruited more hit men, many of them former Mexican soldiers, and hired "kaibiles," Guatemalan soldiers trained in counterinsurgency, transforming what had been a small group of assassins into a ruthless gang of enforcers for the Gulf cartel.
The Zetas also were in charge of protecting the Gulf cartel's drug shipments.
The Zetas finally split from their former bosses in 2010 and have since been fighting a vicious battle for control of the drug business in northeastern Mexico, the traditional home base of the Gulf cartel. The result has been a surge of drug-related killings.
The Zetas earned their notoriety for brutality by becoming the first to publicly display their beheaded rivals, most infamously two police officers in April 2006 in the resort city of Acapulco.
The severed heads were found on spikes outside a government building with a message signed "Z'' that said: "So that you learn to respect."