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Officials: Mexican drug lord killed in raid

By the CNN Wire Staff
Elite Mexican army units stand guard after an anti-drug raid that killed Ignacio Coronel Villareal in Guadalajara, Mexico,  Thursday.
Elite Mexican army units stand guard after an anti-drug raid that killed Ignacio Coronel Villareal in Guadalajara, Mexico, Thursday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Drug cartel leader fired upon military personnel
  • Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel was a top lieutenant in the Sinaloa Cartel
  • He was killed in a suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico
  • It marks a victory for the Mexican president's fight against the cartels

Mexico City, Mexico (CNN) -- Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel Villareal, a principal leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was killed during a military raid in a suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico's defense department said.

Military intelligence located Coronel in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Brig. Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas told reporters. During the operation Thursday, Coronel tried to avoid arrest, firing on the military personnel, killing one and wounding another before he himself was killed, Villegas said.

The operation resulted in the arrest of Coronel's right-hand man, Iran Francisco Quinonez Gastelum. Coronel had used two houses located in the Guadalajara neighborhood of Colinas de San Javier as "safe houses" and had not associated with anyone but Quinonez "to maintain his low profile and not draw attention," Villegas said.

Coronel, who was from the state of Durango, had gotten his start in criminal activity working for Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who was responsible for sending drugs from Central and South America to the U.S. market, Villegas said.

After Carrillo died, Coronel joined the Guzman Loera drug trafficking group, rising in a short time to become one of its principal leaders next to Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka "El Chapo Guzman," and Ismael Zambada Garcia, aka "El Mayo Zambada," Villegas said.

Coronel led the organization's criminal activity in the west, including the states of Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit and part of Michoacan, "controlling the cocaine traffic through the "Pacific Route," Villegas said.

Video: Top Mexican drug lord killed
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The U.S. State Department and the FBI were offering $5 million for information leading to Coronel's capture, he said.

During Thursday's operation, authorities found weapons, cash, jewelry, vehicles and furniture, he said.

In addition to eliminating a major drug trafficker, the raid could also dampen criticism against the federal government that it favors the Sinaloa cartel compared to other drug trafficking organizations it is fighting.

"Although the Ignacio Coronel Villareal Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization is based in Mexico, the scope of its influence and operations penetrate throughout the United States, Mexico, and several other European, Central American and South American countries," according to the FBI, which lists Coronel among its most wanted.

Coronel was indicted by a federal grand jury in Texas in 2003. That year, a U.S. federal arrest warrant was issued for Coronel charging him with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute and conspiracy to import a controlled substance.

Thursday's action was the strongest blow against the Mexican drug cartels since the December 2009 killing of Arturo Beltran Leyva in Cuernavaca. Beltran Leyva also was killed in a military raid.

The Mexican federal government said in April that 22,700 people have died in the country since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.

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