Army troops arrested the man who reputedly runs the Gulf drug cartel's operation in the central city of San Luis Potosi, Mexico's defense department said Friday.

Mauricio Ramirez Tamez, who was detained Wednesday along with two associates in the northern border city of Reynosa, is linked to the murders of 14 people found dead two months ago on the outskirts of San Luis Potosi, the department said in a statement.

Ramirez Tamez was originally part of Los Zetas, a group formed by special forces veterans and deserters that functioned for years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel.

But the two criminal organizations split in 2010 and Ramirez Tamez and his immediate Zetas superior, Ivan Velazquez Caballero, decided to join the Gulf outfit, the defense department.

The Gulf leadership sent Ramirez Tamez and Velazquez Caballero to San Luis Potosi to mount an offensive aimed at reclaiming the states of San Luis Potosi and neighboring Zacatecas from the Zetas, according to the statement.

Ramirez Tamez is thought to have ordered the murder of 14 Gulf cartel employees he suspected of actually working for Zetas No. 2 Miguel Angel Treviño Morales

The bodies of the 14 men were discovered Aug. 9 inside a stolen van abandoned on the San Luis Potosi-Zacatecas highway.

Conflict among rival drug cartels and between the criminals and the security forces has claimed more than 60,000 lives in Mexico over the last six years. EFE