Mexican authorities announced the arrests of 12 suspected members of the La Resistencia criminal gang, which operates in the western state of Jalisco.
Four of the detainees were the organization's main operators in Jalisco and "received orders" from the group's reputed leader and founder, Ramiro Pozos Gonzalez, alias "El Molca," state Attorney General Tomas Coronado Olmos said Friday.
"They recognize 'El Molca' as their direct boss. They jointly ran the collection (of ransom payments) from Mexico state and we know they were an integral part of the command structures (the gang) had in Jalisco," Coronado said.
Federal police arrested the 42-year-old Pozos Gonzalez Tuesday in Metepec, a city in the central state of Mexico.
The purported operators were identified as Gerardo Venegas Serrano, Armando Rafael Figueroa Martinez, Angel Sanchez Rosales and Francisco Javier Blancas, all natives of Jalisco state.
The suspects, including two teenage boys and five women, have been linked to the discovery of 18 dismembered bodies found May 9 inside two SUVs in the town of Ixtlahuacan, Coronado said.
"We know they participated in that joint operation and they may also have taken part in its planning," the state AG said.
The detainees are suspected of kidnapping 14 people, including two who were found dead inside the SUVs in Ixtlahuacan and 12 who managed to escape.
They also were allegedly involved in seven abductions in the Guadalajara metropolitan area and other cities in Jalisco state.
The suspects were arrested during a state law enforcement operatio\n while some of them were trying to collect a ransom for a kidnapped 73-year-old businessman, Coronado said.
This week's capture of Pozos Gonzalez may have prompted the suspected kidnappers to accelerate their negotiations, as they knew they would be under more intense scrutiny, he said.
The detainees also could face charges in connection with at least another six murders still under investigation by state authorities.
The break-up of the erstwhile Milenio cartel in 2011 gave rise to the La Resistencia organization - backed by leaders of the La Familia Michoacana and Gulf cartels - and another gang known as Jalisco Nueva Generacion, authorities say.
La Resistencia was led by "Ramiro Pozos Gonzalez, alias 'El Molca,' Elpidio Mojarro Juarez, alias 'El Pilo,' and Victor Manuel Torres Garcia, alias 'El Papirrin,' who was arrested by the federal police on Feb. 28, 2011," federal police drug enforcement unit chief Ramon Eduardo Pequeño said Wednesday in announcing Pozos Gonzalez' arrest.
Pozos Gonzalez, a native of Zapopan, Jalisco, operated in that state, as well as in Michoacan, Mexico state and the Federal District.
La Resistencia formed an alliance last September with the notorious Los Zetas mob to increase its operational strength and maintain a front against Jalisco Nueva Generacion, headed by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias "El Mencho."
Turf battles between La Resistencia and Jalisco Nueva Generacion have left scores of people dead in western Mexico, especially Jalisco state, since last year.
That region has been one of the flashpoints in a drug war that has left some 60,000 dead since President Felipe Calderon, whose term ends this year, took office in late 2006. EFE