Army soldiers have detained the suspected leader of a criminal gang active in southern Mexico, the Defense Secretariat said in a statement.

The arrest of Cleotilde Toribio Renteria, purported leader of the Guerreros Unidos gang, occurred Monday in this capital's Santa Fe business district, home to the headquarters of multinational companies and luxury apartment buildings.

The suspect is accused of murders, kidnappings and extortion, the secretariat said Wednesday.

The army also detained Mario Saul Farfan, suspected money handler for that criminal gang, which operates in Guerrero state and the tourist corridor of the neighboring state of Morelos.

Toribio Renteria began his criminal career in 2005 as a member of the Los Pelones gang headed by notorious drug lord Edgar Valdez Villarreal, nicknamed "La Barbie" because of his leading-man good looks.

When "La Barbie" was arrested in 2010, Toribio Renteria formed part of splinter groups including the Cartel Independiente de Acapulco and Comando del Diablo.

In 2011, he founded Guerreros Unidos, a gang active in the Guerrero towns of Iguala, Taxco and Ciudad Altamirano as well as in the Morelos city of Cuernavaca.

The rise of the new gang led to turf battles in those areas with established criminal mobs such as La Familia Michoacana and the Beltran Leyva cartel, the secretariat said.

At the time of Toribio Renteria's arrest, authorities also seized cash equivalent to $95,000, two rifles and four vehicles.

Elsewhere, Mexican police arrested nine people in two separate operations in the northwestern state of Durango and the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon, the Public Safety Secretariat said Wednesday.

The first operation took place Monday near the Durango city of Ciudad Lerdo and resulted in the arrests of Juan David Alejandro Mendez Arizpe, 25, and Sergio Gael Rosales Palacios, 18, alleged leaders of a group of suspected hit men and kidnappers in that state.

Three other suspects aged 21 to 49 also were detained in the same operation, in which authorities seized assault rifles, ammunition and four vehicles.

The secretariat said the gang worked for the Sinaloa cartel, carrying out killings and kidnappings of rivals. Mainly active in the states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua, the Sinaloa mob is led by Mexico's most-wanted kingpin, Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman.

Separately, the secretariat said in another statement that four suspected members of the Gulf cartel were detained near a ranch in Cadereyta Jimenez, a Nuevo Leon municipality.

Two of the suspects, Santiago Patiño Gil, 29, and Isaias Cavazos Flores, 19, who apparently were entrusted with safeguarding weapons stored at the property, fired at police officers when they arrived at the scene.

The detainees confessed that they worked as informants for the Gulf cartel, one of Mexico's leading drug mobs, tracking the movements of authorities and reporting that information to their superiors.

During the operation, the authorities also seized numerous weapons and ammunition, as well as bags of cocaine, vehicles and other items.

Nuevo Leon has been battered by a wave of drug-related violence in recent years blamed on a turf war between the Gulf mob and chief rival Los Zetas for control of smuggling routes into the United States.

The wave of violence in Nuevo Leon claimed the lives of roughly 2,000 people in 2011, according to official figures.

Conflict among rival cartels and between criminals and the security forces has claimed more than 50,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon - whose term ends in December - militarized the struggle against drug trafficking. EFE