Image: Michael Escalante
Guillermo Arias  /  AP
Soldiers escort Michael Escalante as he is presented to the press in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Thursday.
updated 9/10/2009 9:31:35 PM ET 2009-09-11T01:31:35

Soldiers have arrested a man suspected of killing 18 people in a series of attacks this year in violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas.

Michael Escalante, 29, of El Paso, was allegedly a member of "La Linea," a group of hit men working for the Juarez drug cartel, Mexico's Defense Department said Thursday in a release.

There was no lawyer of record for Escalante, and his nationality was not immediately clear. The U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez declined to comment.

Last week authorities arrested two other alleged La Linea members, charging one in 211 killings and another in 33 killings.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's deadliest city, has seen more than 1,300 murders this year.

Also Thursday, Ciudad Juarez city councilman Arturo Dominguez Esquivel announced the city would come up with 13 million pesos ($970,000) to help pay for the cost of keeping 2,100 soldiers in the city for another 45 days.

The army had been scheduled to withdraw about one-third of the 6,000 troops patrolling the city as part of a planned drawdown. The soldiers were sent to the city early this year to battle the cartels until more police could be trained and recruited.

The level of drug-related killings dropped drastically in the weeks following the army deployment, but then returned to previous levels.

Farther south in the Michoacan state capital of Morelia, police said Wednesday that they seized eight counterfeit police and rescue vehicles including an intensive care ambulance with official-looking logos and paint jobs.

Police said the vehicles belonged to gang members who planned to use them to conduct illegal activities.

President Felipe Calderon first launched his crackdown against drug cartels in Michoacan, sending thousands of federal police and soldiers to his home state after taking office in late 2006.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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