MEXICO CITY -- Federal police and soldiers say they have arrested the leader of the "Rojos" gang that sowed terror in southern Mexico.
The Public Safety Department identified Santiago Mazari only by his nickname, "El Carrete," but a government wanted poster lists that as an alias for Mazari. The poster offers a $150,000 reward for Mazari and says he is wanted on charges of organized crime, drug trafficking, kidnapping and other crimes.
The department said late Thursday that Mazari was arrested along with another suspect in the mountains of the southern state of Guerrero.
Mazari allegedly led extortion, killings and kidnappings throughout Guerrero and neighboring Morelos state.
"This suspected criminal has been identified as one of the main causes of violence in Guerrero and Morelos," the department said in a statement.
For years, the Rojos — or "Reds" — were locked in turf battles with a rival gang, Guerreros Unidos, for control of the lucrative drug trade in the mountains of Guerrero. The area is one of the principle opium-growing region in Mexico.
In 2014, police allied with Guerreros Unidos kidnapped 43 teachers' college students because they believed the youths were working for the Rojos. Prosecutor say Guerreros Unidos gunmen killed the students and burned their bodies, but doubts remain about that theory since bone fragments found matched only one or two of the students.
Some suspects in those killings claimed Mazari paid the students to disrupt activities in the city of Iguala, a Guerreros Unidos stronghold.
For that and other reasons, some believe Mazari may have information on how and where the students were killed, or where their bodies were taken.