Twelve suspected Cartel Independiente de Acapulco members wanted for the killings of at least 18 people in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero were arrested, state officials said Thursday.

Jose Alberto Quiroz Perez, one of the cartel's suspected bosses, was among those captured, the Guerrero Public Safety Secretariat said.

Quiroz allegedly was in charge of merging the gangs left leaderless by the arrests of the bosses of the La Barredora drug trafficking organization.

La Barredora fought the Cartel Independiente de Acapulco for control of drug sales, kidnappings and extortion rackets in Acapulco, a resort city on Mexico's Pacific coast.

The two gangs were formed after the break-up of the organization led by Edgar Valdez Villarreal, who was arrested by the Federal Police on Aug. 30, 2010.

The arrest of Valdez Villarreal, known as "La Barbie," unleashed a war for control of Acapulco, one of Mexico's top tourist destinations, sending the crime rate soaring in the port city.

Quiroz Perez and his associates kidnapped members of rival gangs, murdered them and dumped their bodies in public areas along with threatening messages, the secretariat said.

The Cartel Independiente de Acapulco is suspected of being behind extortion rackets targeting businesses in Acapulco.

Acapulco, a favorite among Mexican and foreign tourists for decades, has lost business to other destinations due to the violence.

The cartel operates in Acapulco and cities in Guerrero's Costa Chica region that were previously controlled by La Barredora, whose members were recruited by Quiroz Perez, the secretariat said.

Police seized three vehicles, six rifles, four handguns, 150 bags of a substance that appears to be cocaine and communications equipment.

Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre Rivero launched a security operation last year with the support of the federal government to step up law enforcement in areas frequented by foreign and domestic tourists.

"Operation Safe Guerrero" was launched on Oct. 6, 2011, in an effort to reduce the soaring crime rate in the state. EFE