MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican judge ordered Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez, believed to be one of the country's top drug bosses, held for 40 more days of investigation, the federal prosecutor's office said on Saturday.
Valdez, a 37-year-old Texan who was arrested outside Mexico City late last month, is the highest-ranking suspected drug cartel leader captured alive since the country's drug war erupted in late 2006.
The extended detention period allows prosecutors more time to build their case against Valdez and seven other people who were arrested at the same time.
Valdez had been a contender to take over the Beltran Leyva cartel. A violent struggle for control of the gang erupted after its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was slain in a shootout with Mexican forces in December as some members sided with Valdez against Beltran Leyva's brother.
U.S. authorities have placed a $2 million bounty on his head and want Valdez to stand trial on charges that he masterminded the smuggling of tonnes of cocaine into the United States. Mexican officials have not said whether they will hand Valdez over to the United States or try him first in Mexico.
Valdez will be held in the headquarters of the Mexican Federal Police in Mexico City during the extended detention period, the prosecutor's office said in a news release.
Video released by the prosecutors' office showed Valdez surrounded by heavily armed police as he was moved by helicopter to police headquarters in the middle of the night.
Federal prosecutors declined to provide further details on the investigation.
President Felipe Calderon has called Valdez's capture a blow against Mexico's increasingly violent drug gangs amid growing discontent with his crackdown on the cartels.
Calderon launched an army-led assault on the drug trade after taking office in 2006. The fighting between rival gangs and security forces has killed more than 28,000 people, unnerving many Mexicans despite the capture or killing of some cartel leaders.
(Reporting by Robert Campbell and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)