Image: Seized weapons in Mexico City
Eduardo Verdugo  /  AP file
Seized weapons sit on racks at a government warehouse in Mexico City on April 24.
updated 8/26/2009 8:07:39 AM ET 2009-08-26T12:07:39

The Mexican army and prosecutors announced Tuesday they have started destroying 79,074 firearms seized a decade or more ago. They will hold on to tens of thousands more weapons seized during the current offensive against drug cartels.

Authorities launched the program by destroying some weapons at a ceremony at a military base in Mexico City.

The weapons being destroyed have all been held at government warehouses for years. The Defense Department said it will retain a total of 35,372 firearms seized since President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006, saying those guns are still evidence in criminal investigations.

Mexico says most of the weapons used by drug cartels in violence that has cost more than 11,000 lives since 2006 come from the United States .

Underlining the challenge posed by heavily armed criminals, soldiers in the border city of Tijuana arrested a suspected drug cartel member with a grenade launcher.

Soldiers detained Moises Ruiz Flores and two other men with three vehicles and found the grenade launcher, a pistol and a rifle.

The also found a police-style uniform with an insignia of a skull above crossed crutches, apparently patterned after the logo of the "Jackass" television show and movies. The insignia apparently refers to a cartel operator nicknamed "Muletas," or "Crutches."

The three men are wanted in connection with the killing of a woman in August.

Also Tuesday, federal police arrested a Mexican man in Mexicali based on a U.S. extradition request. Police said Pedro Banda Gaxiola is wanted in California on charges related to drug trafficking. He and two alleged associates were caught in a vehicle containing 4.5 grams of methamphetamines, police said.

More on: Mexico

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