Mexican marines kill drug cartel's hitman

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Mexican marines and soldiers guard the surroundings of the morgue where the alleged corpse of Nazario Moreno aka "El Chayo", the leader of "Los Caballeros Templarios" drug cartel remain.

MORELIA, Mexico - Mexican marines have killed the chief enforcer of the Knights Templar in the western state of Michoacan, a federal official said on Tuesday, dealing a fresh blow to the drug cartel.

Jose Julio Mendoza Roman, alias "El Parotas," was considered one of the men closest to the cartel&39;s fugitive leader, said Alfredo Castillo, the government&39;s special security envoy to Michoacan.

Mendoza Roman, 36, and another hitman were killed in a shootout with marines on Saturday after gang suspects fired at a military helicopter that had landed in the town of Tumbiscatio to arrest them, Castillo said.

Three other suspects were detained after fleeing the scene.

Mendoza Roman was under investigation for extorting mining businesses and illegally extracting minerals in the region, a major source of revenue for the gang.

The cartel began to weaken last year when farmers, fed up with years of violence, formed vigilante forces last year.

The federal government deployed thousands of troops to the region and killed or captured most of the cartel&39;s leadership, leaving Servando "La Tuta" Gomez as the sole remaining chief.