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Authorities capture suspect in attempted murder of journalist

(CEPET/IFEX) - Members of the army and the Baja California state police have captured Alfredo Araujo Ávila, also known as "El Popeye", wanted in connection with the 1997 attempted murder of journalist Jesús Blancornelas, former director of "Zeta" weekly.

In a press release, the National Defense Secretariat (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) announced that the arrest was carried out by the military on 25 January 2008, in Tijuana, on Mexico's northwestern border, following a joint operation with the Baja California police.

Araujo Ávila, who is wanted for a number of crimes, was one of the top assassins of the Arellano Félix drug cartel in the 1980s and 1990s. He was also a member of the "Los Logan" gang, named for a neighbourhood in San Diego, United States.

Araujo Ávila, an American citizen, is suspected of taking part in the May 1993 murder of Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas, in the Guadalajara airport. An official investigation suggested that this was a case of mistaken identity and that the real target was the leader of an opposing gang, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. Nevertheless, some members of the Catholic Church dismiss this hypothesis.

On 27 November 1997, Blancornelas, who was known for his investigative reports on drug trafficking in Baja California, was shot four times as he was traveling in a car with his driver and bodyguard, Luis Lauro Valero. Lauro and one of the assailants were both killed in the incident.

Blancornelas died in November 2006 at the age of 70 of a pulmonary illness. He was the founder and editor of "Zeta" and "ABC" magazines. He worked for a number of newspapers, such as "El Imparcial" in Hermosillo, "La Voz de la Frontera", "Noticias" and "El Mexicano". He also wrote several books, including "El Cártel" and "Crónica de una Infamia".

After the 1997 shooting, Blancornelas was assigned a permanent team of elite military guards who protected him until he died of natural causes. Before his death, he mentioned in an interview that he had received a number of death threats over the years and at one point there was a contract on his life for US$250,000.

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