Mexico City – A top operative of the Tijuana drug cartel was captured by army troops over the weekend, the Mexican Defense Secretariat said Monday.
Juan Francisco Sillas Rocha and three associates were arrested Saturday by 2nd Military Zone troops in Tijuana, a border city in the northwestern state of Baja California.
The 34-year-old Sillas Rocha, a native of Sinaloa state, was the No. 2 man in the criminal organization led by Fernando Sanchez Arellano.
Sillas Rocha is considered one of Mexico's "most violent (drug traffickers), responsible for a great many murders," the secretariat said.
His capture will have a "considerable effect on the operational and command activities" of the Tijuana cartel, the secretariat said.
Sillas Rocha prosecuted the 2008-2010 war against Teodoro Garcia Simental's gang for control of Tijuana.
Garcia Simental, known as "El Teo," was a long-time member of the Tijuana organization who forged an alliance with the Sinaloa cartel and battled his former bosses for control of the border city. He was arrested in January 2010.
Sillas Rocha also allegedly ordered the kidnappings in Tijuana of three women, all relatives of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, one of the Sinaloa cartel's top leaders.
Army troops captured Sillas Rocha and his associates after they opened fire on an automobile on Tijuana's Insurgentes boulevard, wounding the occupants, the secretariat said.
Soldiers and police established a perimeter in the area and captured Sillas Rocha and his associates, who were identified as Jesus Manuel Mariscal Ramirez, Alejandro Sotelo Pineda and Cristian Ezequiel Sotelo Rodriguez.
The four suspects were turned over to federal prosecutors, the secretariat said.
Soldiers seized five handguns, ammunition clips, ammunition, two vehicles and other property from the suspects.
The Tijuana cartel has been weakened dramatically in recent years by the arrests of some of its top leaders.
Officials have also successfully cleaned up the police departments in Baja California, reducing the cartel's ability to operate and stemming the level of violence in the state.
The Tijuana organization has branched out from the drug trade over the years, engaging in other criminal activities, such as kidnappings.