Mexican troops detained 80 suspected members of the Zetas drug gang, including six police, in eastern Veracruz and broke up their network of encrypted communications, the military said Thursday.
The raid meant that the Zetas had lost their lines of communication and control over the organization, said Jose Luis Vergara, spokesman for the navy, told a news conference at the Veracruz airbase.
The navy presented seized weapons and high-tech communications equipment which they said allowed the heads of the Zetas to communicate with their hitmen, police who were protecting them and drug traffickers.
The equipment included ultra high frequency (UHF) radios, computers and digital equipment for transmitting crypted radio messages and “planning the operations of cells of killers,” Vergara said.
The six detained police had provided protection to the network, he said.
The Zetas were formed by deserters from Mexican special forces who were hired as hitmen for the Gulf cartel in the 1990s. They have recently broken off to become one of Mexico’s most feared crime groups.
They are blamed in kidnappings, extortion and murders in Mexico and beyond, including the massacre of 72 Latin American migrants in August 2010 in northeast Mexico, the beheadings of 27 farmworkers in Guatemala last May, and the murder of a US federal agent in Mexico in February.
Five suspected members of the Zetas have been detained in a probe into an arson attack on a Monterrey casino that killed 52 people last month.