Mexico's army captured a suspected Los Zetas drug cartel boss in an operation carried out in the north-central state of Zacatecas, officials said.

In a joint statement Thursday, the Defense Secretariat and the federal Attorney General's Office said Alfredo Aleman Narvaez, the purported Zetas chief in the central state of San Luis Potosi, was captured two days prior in the city of Fresnillo.

A combined air and ground operation during a horse race organized by Aleman Narvaez led to the capture of the suspected drug boss, accused of coordinating marijuana distribution in Mexico and the United States and other criminal activities from his base in San Luis Potosi.

In his first statements to authorities after his arrest, the suspect said he also operated in Zacatecas, where he was engaged in a turf war with the Gulf cartel, the Zetas' former employers.

Authorities say Aleman Narvaez worked closely with high-ranking Zetas commanders Miguel Angel Treviño Morales and Ivan Velazquez, who provided him with support in his struggle against the Gulf mob in San Luis Potosi state.

Treviño Morales, the cartel's alleged No. 2 and one of Mexico's most-wanted drug traffickers, had entrusted Aleman Narvaez with "strengthening Los Zetas' presence in San Luis Potosi and preventing its structure from being weakened by its confrontation" with the rival gang, the joint statement added.

During the operation, the soldiers seized grenade launchers, a rifle, a handgun, ammunition and ammunition clips, six grenades, a vehicle and other items.

Founded by deserters from an elite special forces unit, Los Zetas began as the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel, but ended that relationship in March 2010 to go into business for themselves.

Hundreds have died in the ensuing turf battles between the aggressive upstarts and the established drug trafficking organizations.

President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against Mexico's heavily armed, well-funded drug mobs shortly after taking office in December 2006, deploying tens of thousands of troops to drug-war flashpoints.

The strategy has led to headline-grabbing captures of cartel kingpins, but drug-related violence has skyrocketed and claimed nearly 50,000 lives nationwide over the five-year period.