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Drug cartel ballad singer killed

US police have launched a murder investigation after a singer known for ballads about the exploits of Mexican drug cartels was found dead by a rural road.

Jesus "Chuy" Quintanilla appeared to have been shot at least twice in the head and was found near his vehicle in south Texas, Sheriff Lupe Trevino said.

Irrigation workers found his body on a road north of Mission in an isolated area surrounded by citrus groves, Mr Trevino said.

Quintanilla's family filed a missing person report yesterday morning, saying they had not had contact with him since the previous night, but investigators were already on the scene, Mr Trevino said.

He would not release details about the investigation but said it was being treated as a murder. He speculated that the singer was either lured or taken to the area where his body was found.

Quintanilla is well known in the region for musica nortena, a genre of music popular in northern Mexico and south Texas, particularly for his ballads, known as corridos.

Some of his songs could be considered narcocorridos, which often tell of the power of top drug traffickers or recount big gun battles in ways that can sometime anger those on the losing side.

Singers of narcocorridos have been targeted in the past. Valentin Elizalde was shot dead in 2006 after performing in Reynosa, a border city across from McAllen, and Sergio Vega was killed in Sinaloa in 2010.

Quintanilla dismissed the term narcocorrido during a 2011 interview, saying his genre of music has always illustrated people's lives. He said the songs began more than a century ago as a way to tell the stories of battles, and have changed only to keep up with the times. "This is something that is very real; it's happening right now, and everyone can identify with it or has heard of it or been affected by it," Quintanilla said.

He added he had worked for 20 years with state police in Mexico and later worked for the federal police there before embarking on his musical career. "Personally, I enjoy writing songs about racehorses," he said.

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