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Mexico Extradites Drug Cartel Leader to US


Drug trafficker Benjamin Arellano Felix is shown the day of his arrest inside of his house in Puebla, Mexico, March 9, 2002 (file photo)

Drug trafficker Benjamin Arellano Felix is shown the day of his arrest inside of his house in Puebla, Mexico, March 9, 2002 (file photo)

The reputed leader of one of Mexico's most violent drug cartels has been extradited to the United States to face drug trafficking and other charges.

The Mexican Attorney General's office said Benjamin Arellano Felix was handed over to U.S. Marshals and sent to the U.S. on Friday. He faces trial in a federal court in California.

Word of the extradition came the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Mexican counterpart, Patricia Espinosa, met in Washington to discuss the fight against drug cartels.

Arellano Felix is one of the highest-profile cartel members extradited under the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Authorities say Arellano Felix led the Tijuana cartel with some of his brothers from the 1980's until his arrest in Mexico in 2002.

Charges against him include conspiracy, money laundering, drug trafficking and organized crime.

In a letter Friday, seven Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives urged Clinton to support the labeling of Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups. The lawmakers wrote that the cartels are a "dangerous threat" to U.S. national security, noting the United States must make sure Mexico does not become a haven for terrorists.

The lawmakers who signed the letter were led by Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since the Mexican government launched military operations against the drug cartels in December 2006.

The United States, which shares a 3,200-kilometer border with Mexico, has promised training and equipment to Mexico's security forces under the three-year, $1.3 billion Merida Initiative to tackle organized crime.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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