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Eldest of Mexico's Arellano Felix clan killed

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Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, the eldest brother of Mexico's once-feared Arellano Felix drug clan, was shot to death in the Baja beach resort of Los Cabos by a gunman wearing a clown costume, authorities said today.

Relatives of Arellano Felix confirmed his identity at the scene of the crime at a rented beach house, the attorney general's office in Baja California Sur state said in a statement.

A photo from the scene showed his body sprawled on the tiled floor of the open-sided, beachfront house, covered by a sheet.

An official of the Baja California Sur state prosecutor's office said today the killer wore a clown costume complete with a round red clown nose.

The official was not authorised to be quoted by name. The motive for the attack, and the gunmen's disguise, are still under investigation.

Arellano Felix served time for drug charges in the United States but was released and deported in 2008.

Known for its violent and brutal control of the drug trade in the border city of Tijuana in the 1990s, the arrests or death of most of the seven Arellano Felix brothers have reduced the cartel to a shadow of its former self. Aged 63, Arellano Felix was already in prison by the time the gang rose to its height.

He was arrested in 1993 connection with the murder of Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo and served a 10-year sentence for weapons possession.

He was then extradited to the US in 2006 to face California charges stemming from a 1980 case in which he allegedly sold cocaine to an undercover police officer in the United States.

He was sentenced by a US judge to six years in prison on drug charges but was granted parole, released and deported back to Mexico in 2008.

"He was never really part of the leadership of the big organisation, mostly because he was in jail (in Mexico). He was arrested before they became what they really became," said John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego who co-wrote a 2003 indictment against the Arellano Felix cartel leadership.

Even so, Mexican officials at the time seemed to fear he would return to drug trafficking after serving his Mexican sentence.

Mexican authorities asked their US counterparts to seek his extradition as he neared completion of a sentence on the unrelated weapons charge. Kirby said he found enough evidence to bring charges on the 1980 drug case and he prepared the extradition request.

"The Mexicans were very concerned he was going to get out," Kirby said today.

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