Officials have confirmed that the leader of the Knights Templar cartel was killed in an early-morning shootout with troops, despite having already been declared dead by authorities in 2010.
Tomas Zeron, head of the criminal investigation unit for the federal attorney general's office, said the identity of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, nicknamed "The Craziest One" had been confirmed 100 per cent by fingerprints, but added that tests would continue.
Moreno's death was one of the more bizarre twists in Mexico's assault on drug cartels, in which another two of the country's most powerful drug chiefs have been captured in the past year without a shot fired.
The Mexican military had been tracking Moreno and marines and soldiers confronted him in Timbuscatio, a town in the remote mountains of the western farming state of Michoacan, his cartel's home base.
Officials said the troops had fired to respond to an "aggression" as they tried to make an arrest.
Alejandro Rubido, security spokesman for President Enrique Pena Nieto said that despite the December 2010 announcement that Moreno had been killed in a shootout with federal police, national government officials taking over Michoacan in January discovered that he was alive.
"Anonymous tips indicated that Nazario Moreno was not only living, but continued operating at the head of a criminal group conducting extortion, kidnapping and other crimes," Rubido said, adding that at the time of his first reported death, he had committed multiple murders.
Moreno would have turned 44 on Saturday, according to a government birth date. He led the La Familia cartel when he supposedly perished in a two-day battle with federal police in December 2010 in Michoacan.
No corpse was found then, however. The government of then-president Felipe Calderon officially declared him dead, saying it had proof, but some residents of Michoacan had reported seeing Moreno since then.