Police arrest 16 suspected Gulf cartel members in northern Mexico

Mexico City, Oct 31 (EFE).- Police arrested 16 suspected Gulf cartel members on murder and drug charges in Coahuila, a state in northern Mexico, prosecutors said.

A state police tactical unit captured the suspects, who had firearms, ammunition and drugs in their possession, on Tuesday, the Coahuila Attorney General's Office said in a statement.

The suspects were arrested after officers ordered them to stop for an inspection at a checkpoint and they sped away, the AG's office said.

Police gave chase and the suspects tried to break into a house, opening fire on officers, prosecutors said.

Officers were able to capture the suspects and one of the men, Julio Cesar Aguirre, identified himself as the Gulf cartel's operations chief, the AG's office said.

Aguirre told investigators that he and his associates had murdered three people, the AG's office said.

Police seized 14 AK-47 assault rifles, 80 ammunition clips, an AR-15 rifle, three bags of marijuana and two bullet-proof vests from the suspects.

The suspects were turned over to state prosecutors, who plan to notify the federal Attorney General's Office that the men face organized crime, arms and other charges.

The Gulf cartel is no longer as powerful as it was in the past, partly because of its break with Los Zetas, the criminal organization's former armed wing, which severed ties with the cartel in 2010 and now runs its own narcotics trafficking business.

The Gulf organization, which mainly deals in cocaine, synthetic drugs and marijuana, mostly operates in northern Mexico and the country's eastern coastal areas.

The cartel, like other Mexican criminal organizations, has branched out into kidnappings and running extortion rackets, targeting businesses.

Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, the Gulf cartel's leader, was captured by army troops during an operation in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas on Aug. 17.

Ramirez Treviño took over the Gulf cartel's leadership in 2012.

The Gulf cartel, one of Mexico's oldest drug trafficking organizations, was founded by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra in the 1970s and was later led by Juan Garcia Abrego, who was arrested in 1996 and extradited to the United States.