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Notorious Mexican Drug Lord May Be Dead - 2002-02-23


Mexico's Attorney General, Rafael Macedo de la Concha, says it is possible that one his nation's most wanted criminal figures, Ramon Arellano Felix, is dead. The speculation about the possible death of the notorious drug lord stems from a shootout more than a week ago in which a man resembling him died.

The end of one of Mexico's most dangerous fugitives may have come on the streets of the resort town of Mazatlan on February 10. Ramon Arellano Felix, who is from the northwestern state of Sinaloa, where Mazatlan is located, is thought to have come there to kill a rival drug trafficker. Instead, according to the theory, he and his bodyguards clashed with state police and he was killed, along with one of his men and a police officer.

At the time, the shooting incident made little news. Shootings of this sort are commonplace in Mazatlan. People claiming to be relatives of the dead man claimed the body the day after the shooting and police do not know where they took it. But photos of the dead man show a strong resemblance to Ramon Arellano Felix.

Attorney General Macedo de la Concha says a major investigation is underway to determine if the person killed was Ramon Arellano Felix. He says he cannot provide details nor comment on speculation, but that his office is following all lines of investigation to determine if the reports of the drug trafficker's death are true.

The story of the possible death of Ramon Arellano Felix comes only two days after the visit of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Director Asa Hutchinson in which he stated that the capture of Ramon Arellano Felix and his brother, Benjamin, was a top priority of his agency. Thirty-seven-year-old Ramon Arellano Felix is wanted for various charges, including drug trafficking and murder, in Mexico, and has been on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's ten-most wanted list since September, 1997.

The Arellano Felix gang is also among the top suspects in the shooting death Thursday here in Mexico City of the Attorney General's chief anti-drug investigator, Mario Roldan Quirino. An official from the Attorney General's office, Mario Estuardo Bermudez Molina, says the murder may have been related to a major investigation that was just getting underway.

He says the investigation into the killing will examine all possibilities, but that the main suspicion is that it was related to drug trafficking. He says the murder may have had to do with a project the victim was about to launch against drug smuggling groups, but he offered no further detail about that operation.

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