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Mexico steps up patrols after 2 soldiers killed

MEXICO CITY – The army said Wednesday it has stepped up patrols in a remote, mountainous drug hotspot in northern Mexico, after gunmen killed two army lieutenants in the region.

The grisly discovery happened days after Roman Catholic Archbishop Hector Gonzalez Martinez created a stir by saying that Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman lives near the town of Guanacevi, in Durango state, and that “everybody knows it except the authorities.”

The bullet-riddled bodies of the two army officers were found in the Durango township of Tepehuanes, about 30 miles (50 kms) south of Guanacevi.

The army said in a statement Wednesday that the two officers were off duty when they were killed, and that it had increased patrols in the area to look for the assailants.

Local news media reported that the bodies were found with a sign that read “neither the government nor priests can handle El Chapo,” an apparent reference to the archbishop’s comments and the government’s posting of a $2.1 million reward for Guzman in March.

An army official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, and a local official in Tepehuanes, who asked that his name not be used for fear of retaliation, confirmed that a message was found with the bodies. But they could not say what it said.

The location of Guzman, who escaped from prison in 2001, has become a part of Mexican folklore, with rumors circulating of him being everywhere from Guatemala to almost every corner of Mexico, especially its “Golden Triangle,” a mountainous, marijuana-growing region straddling the northern states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua.

Officials in Guanacevi, a small mining hamlet of about 2,500, said the town “totally rejects” it is home to Guzman.

“If they’re so sure this man is here, why haven’t they presented any evidence?” said Pablo Vargas, secretary of the Guanacevi town council.

Guzman has long been reported to move around frequently, using private aircraft, bulletproof SUVs and even all-terrain vehicles. The heavily forested mountains around Guanacevi have few roads, making it a prime spot as a hideout.

Also Wednesday, the Defense Department announced that soldiers captured Isaac Manuel Godoy Castro, an alleged top member of the Arellano Felix cartel. The department said Godoy Castro led a cell of the cartel and answered directly to its suspected leader, Fernando Sanchez Arellano, known as the “the engineer.”

Godoy was arrested Tuesday, along with six other alleged members of his cell, the department said. They were found with four guns and marijuana.

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