An associate of Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman was arrested in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, officials said.

Jose Salgueiro Nevarez was captured on Monday along with five other suspected drug traffickers in an operation staged by 42nd Military Zone troops in Hidalgo de Parral, Chihuahua, the Defense Secretariat and the Attorney General's Office said.

Soldiers seized five rifles, three handguns, 13 ammunition clips, 414 rounds of ammunition, seven vehicles, one of which was armored, and communications gear from the suspects.

The other suspects arrested by the army were identified as Victor Javier Hernandez Marquez, David Ruiz Rubio, Efren Salgueiro Gonzalez, Brian Salgueiro Zepeda and Erick Salgueiro Peña.

Salgueiro Nevarez controlled marijuana production in southern Chihuahua, the smuggling of drugs into the United States, retail drug sales and extortion rackets targeting businesses, mainly mining companies, officials said.

Hernandez Marquez, a suspected Sinaloa cartel operator in Chihuahua who took his orders from Salgueiro Nevarez, was responsible for controlling the authorities and distributing drugs, as well as for staging hits.

Hernandez Marquez was behind the Aug. 20 killings of Joel Rivera Araujo and three other Sinaloa cartel members at a restaurant in Hidalgo del Parral, the secretariat said.

Salgueiro Nevarez ordered the hit on Rivera Araujo because he viewed him as a threat to his leadership of the cartel cell, the secretariat said.

Salgueiro Gonzalez is suspected of being the leader of a team of hitmen that murdered nine people at a party hall in Chihuahua in February, officials said.

The arrests of Salgueiro Nevarez and his associates are a blow to the Sinaloa cartel's operations in Chihuahua, officials said.

Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, the world's most-wanted drug trafficker, has been on the list of U.S. drug kingpins since June 1, 2001.

The Sinaloa organization, sometimes referred to by Mexican officials as the Pacific cartel, is the oldest drug cartel in Mexico and has an extensive drug distribution network in the United States.

Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001, is considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.

Chapo Guzman tops the list of Mexico's most-wanted criminals and is on the Forbes list of the world's richest people.

The Sinaloa cartel, according to intelligence agencies, is a transnational business empire that operates in the United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Americas and Asia. EFE