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Army and Conase agents took Rafael "N" into custody in Chihuahua. Army and anti-kidnapping agents took Rafael "N" into custody in Chihuahua. FGE Chihuahua

Forces nab Zacatecas cartel chief suspected of instigating violence

He's believed to have hung 10 bodies from an overpass in November

The army and the National Anti-Kidnapping Coordinator (Conase) arrested a prominent cartel chief in Chihuahua on Saturday for aggravated kidnapping.

Rafael “N,” known by the moniker “El Fantasma” (the ghost), has been identified as the leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) in Zacatecas. He’s thought to be responsible for the 10 bodies found hanging from an overpass in Cuauhtémoc on November 18. That was part of an ongoing wave of violence which saw at least 21 publicly hanging corpses reported in the state over eight days.

El Fantasma was in charge of training recruits and is suspected of extortion, selling narcotics, kidnappings and homicides in Tepetongo, Fresnillo and Monte Escobedo.

He is also being investigated for the kidnapping of two U.S. citizens — brothers Javier and Alejandra Márquez Gómez — on December 23. The kidnappers demanded 350,000 pesos (about US $17,000) from the brothers’ U.S. relatives.

A turf war has raged in Zacatecas since mid-2020 between the Sinaloa Cartel and the CJNG, which seeks to expand in the north of the country.

The areas allegedly controlled by Rafael “N” were among the worst affected: Tepetongo and Monte Escobedo were left with no police officers in November after they fled amid violence against authorities. Meanwhile, Fresnillo has the distinction of being the Mexican city where the highest percentage of residents say they feel unsafe.

Zacatecas has already witnessed gruesome violence in 2022, despite a security plan through which 210 additional soldiers and 250 extra members of the National Guard were sent to the state in November.

In one holiday massacre, 10 dead bodies were found abandoned beneath the giant Christmas tree in front of the state government palace on January 6 and 18 people were killed in a single day on February 5.

With reports from El Universal

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