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Mexcio deports border gang leader after shooting

March 15, 2022 GMT

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico deported the alleged leader of a bloodthirsty gang of border hitmen Tuesday, one day after his arrest caused retaliatory shooting and burnings that closed U.S. border crossings and a U.S. consulate.

Ricardo Mejia, Mexico’s assistant secretary of public safety, said suspected drug gang leader Juan Gerardo Treviño was in fact a U.S. citizen and not a Mexican, and said he was deported.

If he had Mexican citizenship, he would have been subject to a lengthy extradition process, but Mejia said Treviño had no Mexican identity documents nor any record of them. It is not uncommon for Mexican families on the border try to have their children’s birth registered in the U.S., but they usually claim dual citizenship.

After his arrest Sunday, members of Treviño’s gang shot up the border city of Nuevo Laredo, and even hit the U.S. consulate with gunfire. The consulate was closed until further notice and two U.S. border bridges leading to Laredo, Texas, were briefly closed because of the incident.

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U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar said in a statement Monday that “I have raised our grave concerns about these incidents and the safety and security of our employees directly with the government of Mexico.”

Treviño was handed over to U.S. at a border bridge in Tijuana, far to the west of Nuevo Laredo, presumably to avoid attempts to free him.

The Mexican army said he was the leader of an extremely violent and heavily armed gang of cartel gunmen known as “The Troops of Hell.” That gang is a faction of the Northeast Cartel, the successor group to the old Zetas Cartel.

Treviño is reportedly the nephew of Miguel Angel Treviño, the imprisoned former leader of the Zetas.

The cartel has participated in some of the bloodiest, most tenacious turf battles in Mexico, attacking both Mexican law enforcement personnel and the rival Gulf cartel.

In 2019, gunmen from the Northeast staged a massive gunbattle in another border state, Coahuila, that killed 24 people. The drug cartel killed four state police officers, a local firefighter and an employee of the town’s public works department in the small town of Villa Union. A total of 18 suspected gunmen also died in the confrontations.

Treviño, who reportedly had two illegal guns when he was detained, faces charges of extortion, homicide and terrorism in Mexico. He was wanted for extradition to the U.S. on charges of conspiracy to traffic drugs and launder money.

The army said armored trucks and a helicopter were used to arrest Treviño.

The gunfire in Nuevo Laredo erupted late Sunday after his arrest, when his cartel members opened fire and hijacked and burned vehicles.

The Mexican army said there had been 13 street and highway blockades in Nuevo Laredo, many apparently formed by burning vehicles.

U.S Customs and Border Protection said that southbound traffic from Laredo into Nuevo Laredo at the Juarez-Lincoln and Gateway to the Americas bridges was suspended, but reopened early Monday.

The U.S. consulate in Nuevo Laredo was closed to the public and existing appointments were to be rescheduled.