The leader of the Los Zetas drug cartel in several cities in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon was killed in a shootout with army troops and police, the state Security Secretariat said Thursday.

Hernando Rodriguez Hernandez and two other suspected Los Zetas members died Wednesday night in Garcia, a city about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) northwest of Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, the secretariat said.

Rodriguez Hernandez was behind the killing of Garcia police chief Juan Arturo Esparza on Nov. 5, 2009, and two attempts on the life of Mayor Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, the secretariat said.

The Zetas boss, who operated in at least three cities in the Monterrey metropolitan area, ordered the Feb. 25 and March 29 attacks on the mayor, the secretariat said.

Three gunmen died in the first attack and one of the mayor's bodyguards was killed in the second incident.

Army troops, state police and municipal police spotted a suspicious vehicle while patrolling Garcia and were engaged in a shootout by Rodriguez Hernandez and his associates.

Security forces members found two AK-47 assault rifles, two AR-15 assault rifles, a 9 mm pistol and ammunition inside the drug traffickers' Toyota SUV, the secretariat said.

Los Zetas has been battling an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels, known as the Nueva Federacion, for control of the Monterrey metropolitan area and smuggling routes into the United States.

Monterrey and its suburbs have been battered by a wave of drug-related violence since March 2010, when the three cartels reportedly went to war with Los Zetas.

Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as "El Lazca," deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.

After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas, considered Mexico's most violent criminal organization, went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.

A total of 267 murders were registered in the industrial city in 2009, with the figure rising to 828 in 2010 and more than 700 so far this year, and 80 percent of the killings are related to drug trafficking, official figures show.