One of the suspected leaders of the La Barredora drug cartel and three of his associates were captured in northwest Mexico, the Public Safety Secretariat said.

Gino Huerta Moreno, who went by the alias Arturo Moreno Araujo, is considered the top leader and one of the founders of La Barredora, the secretariat said.

The Federal Police arrested Huerta Moreno in San Sebastian en Los Mochis, a city in Sinaloa state, where the suspected drug trafficker is from, the secretariat said in a statement.

The 30-year-old Huerta Moreno was identified by intelligence reports as the gang's coordinator of kidnappings and contract killings, federal officials said.

La Barredora "mutilated its victims" and dumped their bodies "with intimidating messages for rival gangs," the secretariat said.

Huerta Moreno has been linked to extortion rackets and drug trafficking in Guerrero, a state in southern Mexico, where the gang, also known as the Comando del Diablo, operates, the secretariat said.

Huerta Moreno took over command of La Barredora's operations in Guerrero following the arrest on May 5 of Jesus Ricardo Tapia Lopez, the secretariat said.

Marco Nuñez Becerra, 38, presumed to be Huerta Moreno's bodyguard and money man, Julio Cesar Soto, 37, and Gamaliel Soltero, 41, were also arrested.

Soto and Soltero are suspected of being killers who mutilated the bodies of kidnapping victims, the secretariat said.

The suspects, who were turned over to federal prosecutors, told investigators the gang operated in Acapulco, one of Mexico's top tourist destinations, and Guerrero's Costa Chica region, the secretariat said.

The Federal Police seized an SUV, a vehicle without tags, three AK-47 assault rifles, a pistol, 100 bags of a substance that appears to be crack cocaine, four radios, cash and documents from the suspects, the Public Safety Secretariat said.

The suspects were arrested by federal security forces participating in "Operation Safe Guerrero," which was launched on Oct. 6, 2011, in an effort to reduce the soaring crime rate in the state.

Acapulco, a favorite among Mexican and foreign tourists for decades, has lost business to other destinations due to drug-related violence blamed on a cartel turf war.

The La Barredora gang and the Cartel Independiente de Acapulco have been fighting for control of the resort city for more than a year.

The two gangs were originally part of the criminal organization run by Edgar Valdez Villarreal, officials say.

Valdez Villarreal, known as "La Barbie," was arrested by the Federal Police on Aug. 30, 2010.

About 50,000 people have died in Mexico's drug war since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country's powerful cartels, sending soldiers into the streets to fight criminals. EFE