MONTERREY, Mexico – Police in northern Mexico have captured an alleged member of the Zetas drug gang who confessed to killing at least 75 people, including many who were pulled off of buses, authorities said Monday.
Enrique Elizondo Flores told investigators 36 of his victims were bus passengers traveling through the town of Cerralvo, near the border with Texas, said Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Jorge Domene.
Elizondo was detained Jan. 20 in the town of Salinas Victoria, but authorities delayed announcing his arrest so they could verify details of his confession, said Nuevo Leon state Attorney General Adrian de la Garza.
Domene said the 35-year-old suspect told investigators he had been working in the area at least three years and that he was in charge of killing members of the rival Gulf drug cartel heading to the towns of Cerralvo and General Trevino. He and other gunmen last January began pulling passengers off of buses as they arrived at Cerralvo's bus station, Domene said.
They are among at least 92 bus passengers that the Zetas are accused of killing in three attacks in January and March 2011. Many the victims were originally from the central state of Guanajuato and had arrived in Cerralvo from the border city of Reynosa, Domene said.
Elizondo distinguished himself "for torturing, maiming and then killing his victims," Domene said.
Last year, authorities in the neighboring state of Tamaulipas unearthed 193 bodies from clandestine graves in the town of San Fernando. Security forces said they were led to the site by members of the Zetas who confessed to kidnapping and killing bus passengers traveling through the area.
The motive for the bus abductions remains unclear. Prosecutors have suggested the gang may be forcefully recruiting people to work for it or trying to kill rivals they suspected were aboard the buses.
Northeast Mexico has been engulfed by a turf battle between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas since they split in 2010.
More than 47,000 people have been killed nationwide since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown against drug traffickers in December 2006.