Suspected drug lord Nazario Moreno, known as "The Craziest One," was killed late on Thursday in a shootout with security forces in western Mexico, a government spokesman said on Friday.
Moreno was believed to be one of the leaders of the cult-like La Familia (The Family) drug cartel, dominant in President Felipe Calderon's home state of Michoacan. He was shot dead in a firefight with security forces in the Apatzingan area, a La Familia stronghold, national security spokesman Alejandro Poire said.
"Diverse pieces of information obtained during the raid all indicate that Nazario Moreno Gonzalez was killed yesterday," Poire said in a televised press conference.
Moreno preached Bible scripture mixed with self-help slogans to gang members and promoted a mystique unique among Mexican gangs by claiming to protect the local population.
Wanted in the United States and with a $2.4 million bounty on his head in Mexico, Moreno is the second drug kingpin to be eliminated in just over a month.
Some 33,000 people have been killed since Calderon launched his military campaign against drug cartels when he took office in 2006, worrying Washington and some investors who are freezing investment just as Mexico pulls out of recession.
La Familia, a little-known gang before Calderon launched his cartel crackdown in December 2006, has grown to become one of the country's top criminal outfits, taking on security forces with a menacing mix of violence, pseudo-religion and gifts for the poor.
Violence flared on Wednesday night when federal police and security forces streamed into Michoacan in search of Moreno and at least three people have been killed there in a standoff in which gang members burned cars and blocked access to Michoacan's state capital Morelia.
La Familia was hit last year by the arrests of two top leaders and is fighting the Zetas and the Beltran Leyva cartel for control of Michoacan's coast, where traffickers receive illegal shipments of chemicals to make methamphetamines.