Security forces captured the leader of the ultraviolent Los Zetas drug cartel during an operation in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, the Mexican government said.

Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias "Z40," was arrested in the early hours of Monday along with a bodyguard and the cartel's money manager, federal security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told a press conference in the capital.

"Not a single shot" was fired, Sanchez said, adding that the trio was in possession of $2 million in cash, eight assault rifles and some 500 rounds of ammunition.

Marines mounted a surveillance operation in the area after receiving intelligence that Treviño would be traveling on rural routes between the states of Tamaulipas - where Nuevo Laredo is located - and Coahuila.

The kingpin's vehicle was spotted at 3:45 a.m. Monday southwest of Nuevo Laredo, a city just across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas.

A marine helicopter and ground units then moved to intercept Treviño, the security spokesman said.

The Zetas boss faces charges for racketeering, murder and money laundering, among other offenses, and both the Mexican and U.S. governments had posted multimillion-dollar rewards for information leading to his arrest.

Treviño is thought to have ordered the abduction and subsequent execution of 72 undocumented migrants whose bodies were discovered in August 2010 at a ranch in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Sanchez said.

News of Treviño's apprehension comes less than a year after the Zetas' then-chief, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, died in a shootout with Mexican troops.

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, U.S.-trained special operations unit.

After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account in early 2010 and now control several lucrative territories.

El Lazca's death and the capture of Z40 leaves the latter's brother, Oscar Omar Treviño Morales, as the only top Zetas leader still at large. EFE