Aztecas gang unleashes attacks on Juarez police after leader’s capture

Border Crime

'The Iraqi' is blamed for 50 murders, kidnappings and extortions in Juarez

Just in: La Linea targets police officers following arrest of top cartel lieutenant

Jose Dolores Villegas Soto, a.k.a. “The Iraqi” (photo courtesy Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office)

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Juarez experienced a night of violence following the capture of an alleged mass murderer and leader of the Los Aztecas drug gang.

Authorities reported four separate attacks on police between Wednesday night and Thursday morning that left two officers and one civilian injured, several squad cars shot up and five alleged assailants behind bars. A police official late Thursday morning said four other assailants had been killed.

The gun battles started shortly after authorities announced the capture in neighboring Coahuila state of Jose Dolores Villegas Soto, a.k.a. “El Iraki” or “The Iraqi.”

“This person is part of an organization known as Los Aztecas,” Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral said Thursday morning. “He has been identified as the person responsible for up to 50 murders.”

Villegas fled Juarez in late January after a spree of attacks on drug distribution centers in the city that left 20 people dead, Corral said. One of those attacks involved the shooting of five alleged meth addicts in the patio of a home in a working class neighborhood.

Villegas was in charge of up to 50 streetlevel drug dealers and assassins and was a leader in the Aztecas gang structure, the governor said. The Aztecas have been often linked to the old Juarez cartel, now known as La Linea.

“In addition to ordering executions, sometimes he participated personally” in the murders, Corral said. “Not only were rival traffickers killed, but sometimes also people who belonged to his own criminal structure.”

In a press call Thursday morning, Chihuahua Attorney General Augusto Peniche said Villegas kept a tight grip on his subordinates, physically assaulting and killing some of them on suspicion of betrayal or “indiscipline.”

He said all police agencies in Juarez and the Mexican National Guard were well-coordinated in their response to the attacks and were patrolling the streets to quell further violence.

“Everything is under control. Yesterday we had a coordinated response to contain this irrational violence,” he said. “(Today), we are working with our intelligence units to identify and prevent further threats.”

The Chihuahua attorney general said Villegas would be prosecuted on 12 criminal counts, beginning with one involving the kidnapping of a man whom he allegedly later murdered.

Villegas had been arrested several years ago on extortion and weapons charges.

One of the targets of the Aztecas gang last night was the State Police Station in Juarez. Local news media report the arrival of up to 100 police officers to the scene, some in shorts and other civilian clothes, to safeguard the station against another attack.

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