Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, the top boss of the Los Zetas drug cartel, may have been killed in a shootout with marines in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, the Navy Secretariat said.
Forensic tests are being performed on the bodies of two suspected criminals killed in the gunfight with marines and there are "indications that one of the bodies is that of Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano," the secretariat said in a statement.
Lazcano, known as "El Lazca," deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit.
Marines were sent to the area around Progreso, a city in Coahuila, after a report was received at approximately 1:30 p.m. Sunday that armed men were in the area.
"Navy personnel ... were attacked with grenades from a moving vehicle, prompting them to repel the attack," the secretariat said.
Two suspected criminals were killed and a marine was wounded in the shootout, the secretariat said.
Marines seized two rifles, a grenade launcher, 12 grenades, a rocket launcher, two rockets, ammunition clips and ammunition in the operation.
The two bodies and the weapons seized in the operation were turned over to local authorities.
Navy personnel "are working with Coahuila state authorities and will monitor the conclusions of the corresponding investigative analysis," the secretariat said.
The shootout occurred a day after marines captured Salvador Alfonso Martinez, who allegedly ordered the killings of more than 300 people, including 72 migrants massacred in 2010 in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
Martinez was allegedly in charge of the Zetas cartel's operations in the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila.
He was arrested Saturday in Nuevo Laredo, which is across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas.
Martinez, who smiled and appeared defiant while being paraded before reporters at a press conference Monday at the Attorney General's Office, is considered the "intellectual author of the deaths of 72 undocumented migrants" at a ranch outside the city of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, in August 2010, navy spokesman Rear Adm. Jose Luis Vergara said.
He is suspected of being behind the killings of more than 200 people whose bodies were found in clandestine graves in Tamaulipas, as well as the murders of 50 other people in different parts of Mexico.
David Hartley, a U.S. citizen murdered on Sept. 30, 2010, and police Maj. Rolando Armando Flores Villegas, who was investigating the American's killing, were among Martinez's victims.
The security forces have stepped up operations following the murder last week in Coahuila of Jose Eduardo Moreira Rodriguez, son of former Coahuila Gov. and Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, chairman Humberto Moreira.
Moreira Rodriguez was shot and killed last Wednesday on a rural road near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Coahuila authorities have been looking at the possibility that Moreira Rodriguez's murder was an act of revenge for the killing of the nephew of the Los Zetas drug cartel's No. 2 man, Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias "Z40," in a shootout with state police Wednesday in the border city of Piedras Negras.
After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas, considered Mexico's most violent criminal organization, went into the drug business on their own account in early 2010 and now control several lucrative territories. EFE