Two senior figures in Mexico's Knights Templar -- one of them the brother of the now semi-mythical figure of Michoacan drug lord El Chayo -- have been captured, dealing another blow to an organization left reeling by vigilante militias and the heightened attentions of the authorities.
Mexican Federal Police detained Heliodoro Moreno Anguiano, half-brother of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias "El Chayo," in the municipality of Apatzingan, reported Excelsior. Self-defense groups reportedly identified Moreno Anguiano as he attempted to pass unnoticed dressed in a white shirt typically used by the vigilante groups.
According to sources from the Federal Police, Moreno Anguiano claimed not to know if his brother was dead or alive, saying he had not seen El Chayo since 2010, when police reported they had killed him but failed to recover his body.
Juan Reza Sanchez, a co-founder of the Knights Templar who is suspected of overseeing the group's finances, was also detained in the state of Queretaro, reported Excelsior. Mexico's attorney general had offered $375,000 for information leading to the arrest of Sanchez, who was captured following an intelligence operation by Federal Police.
InSight Crime Analysis
The capture of Moreno Anguiano and Reza Sanchez are the latest setbacks for the Knights Templar, which has suffered repeated losses as a result of the offensive mounted by federal and vigilante forces against the group's stronghold in Michoacan. Intelligence work by Federal forces and offers of rewards for information may be a sign the campaign against the Knights Templar is still gaining momentum.
SEE ALSO: El Chayo Profile
Faced with this onslaught, the Knights have struggled to evade capture, likely in part because they have always maintained a high public profile through vocal and antagonistic propaganda campaigns. In this they have carried on the traditions of El Chayo, who employed similar mythical language and spiritual and religious messages while leading the Knights' predecessors, the Familia Michoacana.
Following El Chayo's supposed death in 2010 he gained a cult-like following, with many believing he is still alive. Yet, if El Chayo were alive, it seems more likely that his brother would publically claim he was dead in order to discourage security forces from continuing any pursuit. The refusal of Moreno to acknowledge his brother's death may be an attempt to feed this legend and bolster support in local communities, especially as the Knights Templar continue to suffer setbacks.