Mexican army soldiers killed a suspected high-ranking leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel in a clash early Saturday, the Sinaloa state Attorney General's Office told Efe.

Manuel Torres Felix, alias "El M1" or "El Ondeado," was killed in a clash between army troops and suspected cartel gunmen on a road leading to the town of Oso Viejo, they said.

Torres Felix was the brother of Javier Torres, "El JT," who until his arrest in 2004 was one of the top lieutenants of senior Sinaloa cartel leader Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada.

After his brother's arrest, Manuel Torres Felix allegedly became a key Sinaloa cartel hit man under the command of Zambada and Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, Mexico's most-wanted fugitive.

A few months ago, the federal Attorney General's Office included Torres Felix on a list of its most-wanted criminals, offering 3 million pesos (some $233,000) for information leading to his capture.

He was known for the brutal methods he used in eliminating his foes, while several "narco-ballads" - controversial folk songs popular among residents of Sinaloa state - glorified his exploits.

After the clash, the security forces seized a large stash of weapons, ammunition and other material.

Soldiers were deployed to guard the site of the clash and the morgue where the body was taken.

That decision was taken to prevent his body from being stolen, as occurred after last Sunday's death of Los Zetas cartel top boss Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano in the northern state of Coahuila.

After Lazcano was killed in a shootout with Mexican marines and his body was taken to a morgue, a gang of armed men stormed the building and made off with the corpse.

The Zetas and the Sinaloa gang are Mexico's two most powerful drug cartels and are responsible for a large share of the estimated 60,000 organized crime-related deaths in Mexico since December 2006.

That was the month President Felipe Calderon took office for a six-year term and militarized the struggle against the country's powerful drug mobs.

The president's deployment of the armed forces to fight drug traffickers, however, has failed to stem the violence, as Mexico registered 27,199 murders in 2011, or 24 per 100,000 people, the highest yearly total since he was inaugurated, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, or INEGI, said in a report released on Aug. 20.

The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which was founded by poet-turned-peace activist Javier Sicilia after his son was murdered last year by suspected drug-gang members, puts the death toll from Mexico's drug war at 70,000. EFE