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Mexico says marines were unaware they had killed drug lord

PROGRESO, Mexico — Mexico’s navy said Wednesday that its personnel had no idea they had killed the leader of the country’s most-feared drug cartel until after his body was stolen from a funeral home in this border town.

The death of Zetas cartel leader Heriberto Lazcano, alias ‘‘El Lazca,’’ in a gunfight with marines on Sunday left a wake of fear in the small towns that dot the northern plains.

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Residents of Progreso said they heard a series of three loud explosions Sunday.

It is clear why this area was attractive for the Zetas, the brutal cartel that Lazcano helped found after deserting from Mexico’s army. Progreso has had no municipal police force since January, because local officers refused to submit to the background checks that are now required of police. A few state officers now provide the only security in the town.

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