08/16/2006

Feds arrest Mexican drug kingpin who led cross-border tunnel-digging

By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON-  Federal drug agents and the Coast Guard arrested Mexican drug lord Javier Arellano-Felix, a leader of a violent gang responsible for digging elaborate tunnels to smuggle drugs under the U.S. border, a Justice Department official said Wednesday.

The official said the Arellano-Felix, 37, was apprehended off the southern California coast. He is wanted in both the United States and Mexico for his role as a leader in the violent and sophisticated Tijuana-based Arellano-Felix gang, which includes seven brothers and four sisters from the Arellano family. The official requested anonymity because he spoke before the official announcement of the arrest.

The Justice Department called an afternoon news conference with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, and Drug Enforcement Administration Chief of Operations Michael Braun to announce what it called "the arrest of a high-profile narcotics target."

Arellano-Felix was named in a federal indictment that was unsealed in California in July, 2003. The State Department has offered $5 million rewards for the capture of him or his brother Eduardo.

Their gang is believed to be responsible for the massive, sophisticated drug tunnels discovered last January. The DEA says the gang is also responsible for multiple murders and the smuggling of tons of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines over the last decade.

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