Mexican authorities Friday detained eight members of the “Zeta Killers” gang blamed for at least 67 recent killings in eastern Veracruz state, the latest flashpoint in the country’s drug violence.
The suspects were blamed for the deaths of 35 people whose bodies were dumped on a road in the city of Veracruz on September 20, and allegedly led authorities to 32 bodies found in three houses in the port city Thursday.
State prosecutor Reynaldo Escobar, meanwhile, resigned later Friday after receiving widespread criticism for declaring that the first 35 victims all had criminal records before a probe into the killings had even ended.
The detained ‘Zeta Killers’ also belonged to the ‘New Generation’ drug gang, navy spokesman Jose Luis Vergara told a news conference.
The navy emphasized that the gang was “only another organized crime group,” and sought to dispel speculation that the “Zeta Killers” were a paramilitary group aimed at helping to crush the ultra-violent Zetas.
The New Generation gang is believed to be linked to rivals of the Zetas, including Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa drug cartel led by billionaire fugitive Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.
The navy also detained 12 alleged members of the Zetas, including Aquiles Amaranto Cruz Hurtano, allegedly the gang’s new chief of operations for Veracruz.
The Zetas, set up in the 1990s by ex-elite soldiers turned hired killers for the Gulf gang, have been blamed for an upsurge in violence this year in Veracruz, including the killings of three marines.
Earlier in the week, security officials detained 32 alleged members of the Zetas in Veracruz, including 18 municipal police officers.
Federal authorities have also deployed security forces to the eastern state to work under a single command to try to stem the growing violence.