Photo of body of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias "El Chayo"

Marines have killed the founder of the Familia Michoacana and leader of the Knights Templar, a mythical figure in the Mexico underworld, who disappeared in 2010 and was believed dead.

Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias "El Chayo" or "the Craziest One" (El Mas Loco) was killed in a shootout with security forces in Tumbiscatio, Michoacan.

Government sources confirmed the body belonged to El Chayo, who was previously believed killed in a confrontation with security forces in December 2010. Despite claims by the government of former President Felipe Calderon that El Chayo was dead, Monte Alejandro Rubido, of the National System for Public Security, and Tomas Zeron de Lucio of the Criminal Investigation Agency, said on March 9 that fingerprint tests had proven beyond doubt that it was the drug lord's body lying in the morgue. 

There have been rumors, ever since his alleged 2010 "death," that El Chayo was still alive and running drug operations on behalf of the Knights Templar criminal organization, which grew from a splinter group of the Familia Michoacana. These rumors reached a fever pitch in February, after one of the drug lord's trusted financial operators was arrested. There have been suggestions that it was this capture that put the security forces back on the trail of El Chayo, and that the intelligence from this arrest led straight to the drug lord.

Earlier this month, elements of the Mexican vigilante groups that have taken root in Michoacan insisted that El Chayo was still alive and that they were closing in on him. The vigilante groups, which signed an agreement with federal and regional authorities in January, have been battling the Knights Templar in Michoacan.

InSight Crime analysis

El Chayo has a mythical status in the underworld, and has been hailed by followers as a "narco saint." During his criminal career he has been linked to many different criminal groups, among them the Gulf and Milenio cartels as well as the Zetas. He was a founding member of La Familia Michoacana, a criminal organization that espoused a quasi-religious doctrine, and burst onto the drug-trafficking scene in 2006, tossing severed heads onto a nightclub floor in Michoacan. After the 2010 disappearance of El Chayo, a new group announced itself in March 2011, the Knights Templar. It continued La Familia's cult-like presentation, mixed in with imagery of Crusader knights.

SEE ALSO: El Chayo profile

During 2014, pressure has mounted on the Knights, from the state and the self defense groups. Among the leaders arrested was El Chayo's half-brother, Heliodoro Moreno Anguiano.

The killing of El Chayo is unlikely to signal the end of the Knights Templar. The visible head of the organization, Servando Gomez Martinez, alias "La Tuta," remains at large and delights in appearing in videos, lambasting his enemies, and claiming to speak for the people of Michoacan.

However, it is another feather in the cap of President Enrique Peña Nieto, coming soon after the capture of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico's most powerful criminal syndicate. As with the capture of Chapo Guzman, it was Mexico's marines that did the heavy lifting in taking down El Chayo, reinforcing their position as the most trusted arm of the security forces.

Investigations

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