Mexico says a top criminal gang figure has been captured

Mexican authorities Tuesday announced the capture of a top leader of the Knights Templar drug gang suspected in a 2007 attack that killed five soldiers.

The army and federal attorney general’s office said in a statement that Saul Solis Solis was arrested a day earlier in the western state of Michoacan.

A former municipal public safety director, Solis was described as a key figure in the Knights Templar, an offshoot of La Familia, a gang that violently split apart this year. The new criminal gang borrowed its name from the Crusades-era military order and distributed a bizarre, religiously tinged booklet that describes its role as the defense of Michoacan residents.

Solis, 49, headed narcotics trafficking for the Knights Templar and carried out killings, kidnappings and extortion efforts in a wide swath of Michoacan and the neighboring state of Mexico, federal officials said. He allegedly played a role in a series of attacks by La Familia gunmen on federal police stations around Michoacan on Dec. 9, 2009.


Solis is also one of the main suspects in an attack on army personnel in May 2007 that killed a colonel and four lower-ranking soldiers. Mexican authorities had offered a reward of more than $1 million for information leading to his capture.

Federal officials said Solis’ cousin, Enrique Plancarte Solis, is one of the two main leaders of the Knights Templar. The other is Servando Gomez Martinez, who was a top figure in La Familia.

La Familia broke apart after its founder, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, was killed by federal forces during a military offensive in December. The rupture spurred a wave of killing that left scores dead across Michoacan in April and May.