Gangland body-disposal specialist nabbed in Mexico

Mexico City, Feb 6 (EFE).- Mexican security forces arrested a man suspected of disposing of bodies for the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel.

Jesus Sanchez Huerta, a.k.a. "Chucho the dismemberer," was detained in Apatzingan, Michoacan state, Federal Police said.

The Apatzingan area is a stronghold of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), which has terrorized the state for more than a year.

Police say Sanchez was responsible for a macabre scene that greeted residents of Apatzingan one morning in 2011, when the bodies of six people whose throats had been slit appeared propped up on plastic chairs around a monument to President Lazaro Cardenas.

Separately, Federal Police in Michoacan seized three armor-plated SUVs and an arms cache that included a .50-caliber Barrett rifle, a weapon capable of penetrating armor and downing helicopters at a distance of two kilometers (1.2 miles).

The vehicles were abandoned among mango groves between the municipalities of Gabriel Zamora and La Huacana by gunmen working for Templarios capo Mario Romero Rodriguez.

The gunmen managed to get away, but left behind a small arsenal. Besides the Barrett, the cops confiscated AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, submachine guns equipped with grenade-launchers and more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition.

While the Templarios' main business is supplying crystal meth and other synthetic drugs to the U.S. market, the group has sidelines in extortion and kidnapping for ransom.

Exasperated by the cartel's crimes and the lack of response from authorities, Michoacan residents, with financial support from local businesses, decided a year ago to form self-defense groups and take on the Templarios themselves.

The federal government grew alarmed about escalating violence in the state and deployed soldiers and police in Michoacan on Jan. 13 in an effort to restore order.

Since then, authorities have arrested scores of suspects, including Dionicio Loya Plancarte, reputed to be one of the four top leaders of the Templarios.

The federal government has also persuaded militia members to join a new army-controlled Rural Defense Corps.