Police force resigns in Mexican town, suspected drug capo ordered held during investigation

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexican judge has ordered suspected drug capo Sergio Villarreal Barragan held for 40 days at a government facility under a form of house arrest, authorities said Wednesday.

Prosecutors in Mexico frequently use such detention orders to gather evidence while preparing formal charges.

The hulking suspected leader of the Beltran Leyva cartel, known by the nickname "El Grande," will be held at a federal police base in Mexico City, according to a statement from the Attorney General's Office.

Also ordered held were two men arrested with Villarreal Barragan on Sunday at a luxury home in the central state of Puebla.

Villarreal Barragan allegedly fought a bloody turf war with former cartel colleague Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a U.S.-born drug enforcer known as "La Barbie," who was arrested on Aug. 30.

In the drug-plagued western state of Michoacan, meanwhile, the entire 45-man police force resigned in the town of Purepero on Tuesday, saying their jobs were too dangerous, Mayor Luis Alberto Tellez Pulido said. Soldiers and state police temporarily took over patrolling duties in the town of 25,000.

It was the second town in Michoacan to face such a mass resignation in less than a year. In December, all the town officials in Tancitaro, Michoacan, resigned, also claiming their jobs were too dangerous. A month later, a new town government took over and fired the entire police force, suspecting its officers were in league with drug gangs.

Michoacan is considered the home territory of the violent La Familia drug cartel, which has mounted several ambush-style attacks on police.

More than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since the current offensive against drug traffickers was launched in late 2006.