Police arrested 52 suspected employees of the notoriously violent Los Zetas drug cartel in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, officials said Wednesday.

The detainees include two municipal police officers and two ex-cops, state Attorney General Adrian de la Garza told a press conference here.

He said those four individuals are believed to be the leaders of a Zetas cell.

The 39 men, eight women and five minors were arrested over a four-day period in the towns of Linares, Allende, Galeana, Iturbide and Montemorelos.

The five underage suspects are accused of acting as lookouts to alert the Zetas to movements of the security forces, the attorney general said.

Police seized assault rifles and torture devices during the raids, state government security spokesman Jorge Domene said.

Nuevo Leon, which borders Texas, and other states in northern Mexico, have been battered in recent years as the upstart Zetas battle the more-established drug cartels for control of territory and smuggling routes.

To earn extra cash, some cartel "sicarios" (hit men) engage in kidnapping, extortion and armed robbery.

Conflict among rival cartels and between criminals and the Mexican security forces have claimed more than 50,000 lives since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against organized crime. EFE