Heriberto Lazcano
Heriberto Lazcano

Mexican authorities have been humiliated after an armed gang stole the corpse of a feared drug lord from a funeral parlour.

The bodysnatchers took the corpse of Heriberto Lazcano, the boss of the feared Los Zetras cartel, from the morgue in the state of Coahuila, northern Mexico, just days after he was killed. He had been shot dead by Mexican Navy marines in a firefight 80 miles from the US border.

Reports say that his corpse - and that of a fellow gangster killed in the same incident - were stolen.,

Lazcano's gang has been blamed for hundreds of deaths in the drug war anarchy rupturing much of the country.

Los Zetas used terrifying tactics to cement their reign. It was one of 11 armed groups fighting for control of the drug trade.

Lazcano was nicknamed El Verdugo, or The Executioner. He was a special forces soldier before deserting the military and turning to organised crime.

Los Zetas was the first gang to publicly display the severed heads of its victims, including two police officers in 2006. Their heads were found on spikes with the message "So that you learn respect," next to the letter Z, for "Zetas".

Lazcano's criminals were among the best-armed and had links to corrupt public figures.

A joint bounty totalling $7.3m was offered by the US and Mexico governments for Lazcano's arrest.

Under Lazcano's leadership, Los Zetas recruited more hitmen and former soldiers who were expert in counterinsurgency techniques.

The gang was linked recently to the killing of the nephew of the governor of Coahuila.

Drug trafficking comprised about half of Los Zetas's trade. Protection rackets, assassinations, kidnappings and extortion were also carried out by the group.