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Mexico: Top drug cartel leader killed

  • Arturo Beltran Leyva was one of Mexico's top three most wanted criminals
  • Beltran Leyva's brother, five other cartel members die at housing complex gunbattle
  • Beltran Leyva cartel is one of most violent and feared drug organizations in Mexico
  • Raid carried out by Mexican navy; petty officer dies from wounds

Mexico City, Mexico (CNN) -- In a strong blow to one of Mexico's most notorious drug cartels, Mexico's navy killed a top drug kingpin in a shootout Wednesday at an upscale resort.

Arturo Beltran Leyva, head of the Beltran Leyva cartel, was killed in the Mexican city of Cuernavaca, the navy said.

Six other cartel members died in the gunbattle at a housing complex called Altitudes, navy spokesman Adm. Jose Luis Vergara said Thursday. He added that one of the gang members killed himself as authorities closed in.

Three navy personnel were wounded by hand grenades, one fatally, President Felipe Calderon said from the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Navy 3rd Petty Officer Melquisedet Angulo Cordova died while being treated for his injuries, he said. One of the other two navy men was in serious condition, and the other was in stable condition, Vergara said.

The Beltran Leyva cartel is one of the most violent and feared drug organizations in Mexico.

Authorities presented to the media three people -- two women and a man -- who were arrested in the raid. Their role with the cartel was not made clear.

The arrested women were identified as Catalina Castro Lopez and Gabriela Vega Perez. The man's name was not immediately released.

Arturo Beltran Leyva was one of Mexico's top three most-wanted criminals, Calderon said.

"This operation was the result of an intense intelligence effort by the Mexican navy," he said.

Video: Drug cartel chief killed
Video: Drug tunnel discovered

The cartel is allied with the Gulf cartel in its battle against the Sinaloa organized crime syndicate. The Beltran Leyva group was formerly allied with the Sinaloa cartel, considered the largest drug-trafficking organization in the nation. The two other major drug organizations in Mexico are the Juarez and Tijuana cartels.

Beltran Leyva was one of 10 suspected cartel leaders named in a U.S. federal indictment in August on drug trafficking and conspiracy charges. In a press statement at the time Justice Department said Beltran Leyva was "among the most powerful drug traffickers in Mexico."

Calderon has targeted drug cartels and organized crime organizations since taking office in December 2006. More than 14,000 people have died in drug-related violence in that time span, Mexican officials say.

No other details of Beltran Leyva's death were immediately available early Thursday.

This month, the U.S. Treasury Department added Hector Leyva and other top cartel figures to a list of "specially designated narcotics traffickers," a move that freezes any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits people in the United States from conducting business with them. Arturo Beltran Leyva was already identified as a kingpin in May 2008.

In the most recent addition, the U.S. government named a total of 22 members of the Beltran Leyva organization and 10 related companies.

A third brother, Alfredo Beltran Leyva, was arrested by Mexican authorities last year and remains in custody.

U.S. authorities allege that the Beltran Leyva organization focuses on smuggling cocaine and heroin into the United States.