Knights Templar Mexican Drug Cartel: Mexican Authorities Kill Cartel's Leader Nazario Moreno for Second Time
Mexican authorities confirmed Sunday that Nazario Moreno, the head of the drug cartel Knights Templar, died, for the second time in four years, according to the Washington Post.
Moreno, who the Associated Press reported dead in 2010, was killed Sunday morning in the Naranjo de Chila village during a shootout with the Mexican military as part of a Mexican Navy led operation.
The criminal investigations head at the Mexican attorney general's office told the Post that they would conduct further analysis of the body but fingerprint tests confirmed "100 percent" it was Moreno this time.
The Knights of Templar, a spinoff of the La Familia cartel, is a gang known for pushing methamphetamine and bearing white cloaks with red crosses inspired by Catholic crusaders from the Middle Ages. They call themselves holy warriors and also build shrines to Moreno.
The cartel's overbearing presence in Michoacan has resulted in a citizen uprising in the last year where militia groups have been taking back villages from the gang's control, ultimately undermining local authorities.
The Mexican government said Moreno had been killed during a gunfight with federal police in December 2010 despite its agents not recovering a body. Some Michoacan residents and officials doubted the news of Moreno's death and also said they believed to have seen him.
According to the Post, the Knights Templar passed the day-to-day leadership role to former schoolteacher Servando Gomez, known in the cartel as "La Tuta."
An anonymous security official told the Post that authorities moved Moreno's body to Apatzingan and was under military control. The authorities were waiting for word from its intelligence agency to confirm that Moreno was in Naranjo de Chila, as he was believed to be frequenting the town.
The official also said many of the cartel members were killed or injured during the shootout.
"We know that there are other (Knights Templar) leaders that continue to operate," the official said. "We think we are going to see internal divisions now."
Militia leaders said they would not stop their fight against the gangs until the government has gotten arrested or killed top seated cartel members.
The Knights Templar were using an illegal iron-ore mine in Lazaro Cardenas, a port city, to finance its activities but the Mexican government recently sent in hundreds of police and soldiers to raid the cartel hideout.
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