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Cops nab cartel hitman allegedly behind 1,500 slayings

Image: Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez
Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, 33, is escorted by federal police officers to a media presentation in Mexico City on Sunday.Marco Ugarte / AP
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

A key drug cartel figure who acknowledged ordering 1,500 killings has been captured in northern Mexico, federal officials said Sunday.

El Universal daily (link to story in Spanish), quoting government sources, said Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez — also known as "El Diego" and reputed to be one of the bosses of the La Linea hitmen — was captured in Ciudad Juarez on Friday.

Acosta Hernandez was allegedly behind a cell phone-detonated car bomb that killed four people in Ciudad Juarez in July of 2010, the first attack of its kind in Mexico's drug war, El Diario reported ( ).

Officials say that he was behind deaths of a U.S. consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another consulate worker in Ciudad Juarez, in March 2010, according to al-Jazeera.

The arrest was the result of close collaboration between Mexican police and American officials, in particular those from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Ramon Eduardo Pequeño of Mexico's federal police said, the paper reported.

Acosta Hernandez is also thought to be responsible for banners threatening both American and Mexican officials in July, Pequeño was quoted as saying. 

"After he was detained, (Acosta Hernandez) said that those messages against the DEA were hung up so that they would know they had been located," he said, according to El Diaro.

Mexico's drug cartels often hang threatening messages on so-called narco banners in public places to terrorize rivals, authorities and civilians.

Renegade police
Formed by renegade police officers in the northern state of Chihuahua, La Linea act as enforcers for the Juarez cartel, a group based in the border city of Ciudad Juarez which controls some of the main drug trafficking routes into the United States.

The Mexican government had offered a 15 million peso reward for the capture of Acosta Hernandez, a former security chief who worked for a now-extinct Chihuahua state attorney's office, El Universal added.

Since President Felipe Calderon sent the army to fight the drug cartels in late 2006, some 40,000 people have died.

In a separate statement late on Saturday, Mexico's Attorney General office said that Hector Guajardo Hernandez, a top drug trafficker for the Sinaloa cartel in the state of Baja California, escaped from custody on July 27.

Guajardo Hernandez, believed to be an ally of Mexico's most powerful drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, escaped from a Mexico City hospital where he was recovering from wounds he suffered during his May arrest.