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Mexican Marines Kill Drug Lord Known as ‘The Executioner’

October 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, the Mexican government says it has taken out a major target in its war on drug cartels.

Ray Suarez has our story.

And a warning: Some viewers may find images in his report disturbing.

RAY SUAREZ: It was front-page news in Mexico City today. Mexican Marines had killed the leader of the Zetas drug cartel, Heriberto Lazcano, in a shoot-out Sunday.

The navy announced fingerprints confirmed the identity. Then a bizarre twist: Gunmen stole the body from a funeral home before forensic testing could be completed.

HOMERO RAMOS, Coahuila State attorney general (through translator): The owner of Garcia funeral services said notified local authorities that a heavily armed group of masked men subdued the employees, took the body from the funeral home in a hearse and forced the driver to drive the vehicle.

RAY SUAREZ: And officials released a death photo of the man said to be Lazcano. Still, the state attorney general, overseeing the operation, said authorities are confident they got the right man.

HOMERO RAMOS (through translator): An analysis was done comparing the body and its characteristics with the still pictures of Heriberto Lazcano on file. This comparison resulted in a positive match.

RAY SUAREZ: Lazcano was one of Mexico’s most feared drug lords, also known as El Verdugo, the Executioner. He transformed the Zetas from enforcers for the Gulf Cartel into a powerful rival organization.

Since then, the Zetas have been blamed for some of the bloodiest atrocities in Mexico’s six-year war on drugs, but in recent months, authorities have arrested a string of high-profile Zeta members.