Female Hit Squad Leader Linked to 20 Murders Arrested

PHOTO: In this photo taken Monday, May 7, 2012, Maria Jimenez, nicknamed "La Tosca," or "the rough one" is presented to the media in Monterrey, Mexico.
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Mexican police say they have arrested a female drug cartel assassin whose hit squad carried out at least 20 murders, including a hit on a policeman.

Maria Jimenez, AKA La Tosca, or "The Tough One," allegedly led a group that included men, women and teens and was paid $1,700 a month by Los Zetas, Mexico's most violent and second-biggest drug cartel, to carry out hits in Monterey, Nuevo Laredo and other cities in Northern Mexico.

According to the Mexican newspaper El Milenio, police said Jimenez "was directly involved" in the murder of Detective Antonio Montiel, who was killed in his pick-up truck by a fusillade of .9 mm bullets. Jimenez allegedly used an ATV to cut off Montiel's vehicle and force him to stop.

Jimenez, 26, and her alleged accomplices were arrested in a stolen gray van on May 1 in Monterrey.

The Zetas cartel, which controls the drug trade in much of the north and east of Mexico, is considered the main rival to the Sinaloa cartel for dominance. The cartel was formed by a group of former soldiers hired in 1999 as a private army by the Gulf Cartel who then split off to form their own rival drug trafficking organization. Many members have police or military backgrounds, including some soldiers who have special forces training.

The Zetas, who also operates in Guatemala, have been a major target of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's attempted crackdown on drug cartels. More than 50,000 people have died in the crackdown, and the Mexican Attorney General estimates that 7 percent of the casualties are military or police officers.

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