(Updates throughout)


Marines have captured a suspected leader of the Zetas drug cartel in the southeastern Mexican states of Tabasco, Veracruz, Chiapas, Campeche and Quintana Roo, an arrest that follows the detentions of several other members of the gang this week.

In a statement Friday, the Navy Secretariat said Mauricio Guizar Cardenas was detained a day earlier at a hotel in Huejotzingo, a town in the central state of Puebla.

In the operation, the marines seized "a 66 mm anti-tank rocket launcher, 20 grenades, a sub-machine gun with a magazine containing 30 cartridges," as well as other weapons and a quantity of a synthetic drug.

The detainee is suspected of being a direct collaborator of Omar Treviño Morales, alias "El Z-42," one of the top leaders of the notorious drug gang, the statement said.

The arrest of Guizar Cardenas stemmed from "naval intelligence work" and information-gathering in the wake of military operations carried out in the central state of Puebla, the Gulf coast state of Veracruz and in Mexico City.

The navy said the December capture in Veracruz of Raul Lucio Hernandez Lechuga, alias "Z-16," a high-ranking Zeta leader, put them on Guizar Cardenas's trail.

After his arrest Thursday, Guizar Cardenas was turned over to the Siedo organized crime unit of the federal Attorney General's Office.

In an operation Monday in Puebla city, capital of the likenamed state, marines captured William de Jesus Torres Solorzano, suspected of heading drug smuggling for the Zetas along the border between Guatemala and Mexico, the Navy Secretariat said a day later.

It added then that Torres Solorzano was suspected of being a close associate of Guizar Cardenas.

Mexican marines also detained five other suspected members of the Zetas drug cartel this week in the Mexican capital and in Veracruz state and seized more than $1.6 million in cash from them, the secretariat said in a statement Thursday.

Rafael Antonio Medina Rea and Ricardo Fuyivara Romero were nabbed Tuesday in Mexico City in possession of a suitcase with $880,000 in cash, as well as a handgun and a grenade.

The military personnel also captured suspected Zeta Jesus Rosas Ibarra on Wednesday in the Mexican capital and confiscated a box inside his vehicle with $730,890 in cash, as well as a handgun and another grenade.

The secretariat also said two men suspected of transporting money for the Zetas - Feliciano Ruiz Atilano and Rafael Vazquez Solis - were arrested Wednesday in the Veracruz capital of Xalapa.

Los Zetas, a group founded by deserters from a U.S.-trained Mexican special forces unit, started out as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but the two criminal organizations had a falling out in 2010 and the Zetas went into the drug business on their own account, gaining control of several lucrative territories.

Even in the violent world of Mexican organized crime, the Zetas stand out for their propensity to dismember the bodies of their victims.

President Felipe Calderon, who will step down in December, gave marines, army soldiers and federal police the lead role in the battle against drug cartels shortly after taking office in 2006. EFE