MEXICO CITY " Mexican authorities arrested a woman guarding an arsenal that included the first anti-aircraft machine gun seized in Mexico, police said Tuesday, as the army announced the capture of an alleged top drug cartel lieutenant.
The arsenal belonged to a group linked to the powerful Beltran-Leyva drug cartel, federal police coordinator Gen. Rodolfo Cruz said. It also included ammunition, five rifles, a grenade and part of a grenade launcher.
Mexican drug cartels, battling a fierce crackdown by soldiers and federal police, have increasingly gotten hold of higher-powered weapons, even military-grade arms such as grenades and machine guns. That has left police " particularly state and municipal forces " grossly outgunned, and many officers have quit following attacks.
Cruz said the confiscated .50-caliber, anti-aircraft machine gun can fire 800 rounds per minute and is capable of penetrating armor from more than 5,000 feet. Police on a routine patrol Monday found the gun fitted atop an SUV at a house in northern Sonora state.
The arrested suspect, Anahi Beltran Cabrera, apparently is not related to the Beltran-Leyva clan, Cruz said.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has traced many guns seized at scenes of drug violence in Mexico to U.S. commercial sources. But determining the source of military-grade weapons such as grenades and fully automatic machine guns is more complicated.
The ATF says the grenades are mostly smuggled in through Central America, and have been traced back to the militaries of many countries, from South Korea to Spain and Israel. Some may be leftovers from the Central American civil wars.
Assailants have fired on government aircraft performing anti-drug missions in Mexico in the past, but apparently never with the caliber of weapon found Monday.