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Arrest of Gulf Cartel leader sparks gunfights and roadblocks near U.S.- Mexico border

JUAREZ, MEXICO - MARCH 24:  Military police keep guard at the site of a murder on March 24, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano all visited Mexico yesterday for discussions centered on Mexico's endemic drug-related violence. The border city of Juarez, Mexico has been racked by violent drug-related crime recently and has quickly become one of the most dangerous cities in the world in which to live. As drug cartels have been fighting over ever-lucrative drug corridors along the United States border, the murder rate in Juarez has risen to 173 slayings for every 100,000 residents. President Felipe Calderon's strategy of sending 7000 troops to Juarez has not mitigated the situation. With a population of 1.3 million, 2,600 people died in drug-related violence last year and 500 so far this year, including two Americans recently who worked for the U.S. Consulate and were killed as they returned from a child's party.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

JUAREZ, MEXICO - MARCH 24: Military police keep guard at the site of a murder on March 24, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano all visited Mexico yesterday for discussions centered on Mexico's endemic drug-related violence. The border city of Juarez, Mexico has been racked by violent drug-related crime recently and has quickly become one of the most dangerous cities in the world in which to live. As drug cartels have been fighting over ever-lucrative drug corridors along the United States border, the murder rate in Juarez has risen to 173 slayings for every 100,000 residents. President Felipe Calderon's strategy of sending 7000 troops to Juarez has not mitigated the situation. With a population of 1.3 million, 2,600 people died in drug-related violence last year and 500 so far this year, including two Americans recently who worked for the U.S. Consulate and were killed as they returned from a child's party. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

Authorities say the arrest of the man who headed the once powerful Gulf Cartel sparked the gunfights and blockades of burning vehicles that left at least three people dead near Mexico's border with the United States.

The arrested leader was identified as José Tiburcio Hernández Fuentes, who stepped into the cartel's leadership vacuum as the group was steadily losing influence with the arrests of key members.

National Security Commission head Monte Alejandro Rubido says the Friday violence in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, followed the arrest of Hernández Fuentes and three other suspected members of the group as their comrades tried to free them.

Rubido said Saturday that Hernández Fuentes has been hard to capture because he has used more than eight false identities.

Officials said roads in Reynosa were blocked with vehicles set on fire by gunmen.

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The state government said three armed men had been killed in the confrontations. Authorities said the situation was brought under control by late afternoon.

The U.S. consulate in Matamoros issued a message urging U.S. citizens to take precautions because of "several firefights and roadblocks throughout the city of Reynosa." The city government posted a warning on its Twitter site recommending motorists avoid several areas, including the highway leading to the nearby city of Matamoros.

Warring factions of the Gulf cartel in Reynosa and Matamoros, known as the Metros and the Ciclones, have been fighting turf battles around the two cities.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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