Mexican security forces have arrested one of the top figures of the Sinaloa drug cartel in an operation carried out in the country's north, officials said on Wednesday. They said Noel Salgueiro Nevarez was arrested on Tuesday in Culiacan, capital of the north-western state of Sinaloa, in a carefully planned operation. He was captured "without any shots being fired," they added. Nevarez, alias El Flaco or The Skinny One, was the leader of a gang of hit-men working for the Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman. He is accused of running the cartel's operations in the northern state of Chihuahua and involvement in kidnappings, torture, extortion and murders. Nevarez is said to be a close associate of Guzman. Mexican officials say his arrest was a major blow to Guzman and insist that it would weaken the operations of the cartel in Mexico and abroad. The Mexican government had offered a reward of about $220,000 for information leading to the capture of Nevarez. The Sinaloa cartel, based in Mexico's Pacific coast, is currently one of the most powerful organized criminal gangs in the Americas. Cartel leader Guzman has been on the run since he escaped from a Mexican prison ten years ago. The United States had declared a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. The Sinaloa cartel is presently engaged in a fierce turf battle with the Juarez cartel led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes for the control of lucrative smuggling routes to the U.S. The two cartels are blamed for most of the recent drug-related violence in Chihuahua and other northern states. The Mexican government says that more than 34,600 people have died in drug-related violence in the country since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug gangs after taking office in December 2006. Besides fighting drug cartels, Calderon has deployed thousands of troops across the country to check drug-related violence and launched a massive anti-corruption drive named 'Operation Clean-up' to identify and punish public servants having links with drug cartels.