El Chapo: Mexican Authorities free drug lord’s son as Culiacán battle erupts
Heavy fighting broke out in northern Mexico after the security forces captured one of the sons of jailed drug kingpin Joaquín”El Chapo” Guzmán.
Fighting raged for many hours following Ovidio Guzmán López was found during a routine patrol in the city of Culiacán.
Footage showed heavily-armed men shooting police, with cars, bodies and burning barricades strewn in the street.
Police withdrew without Mr Guzmán in their custody to prevent additional violence, officials said. BBC News reports
Mexico’s security minister, Alfonso Durazo, told Reuters news agency that a patrol of National Guard militarised police came under intense fire from beyond the home where they had situated Mr Guzmán, forcing them to retreat from the building for their own safety and”to recover calm in town”.
A lawyer for the Guzmán family told the Associated Press (AP): “Ovidio is alive and free.”
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would hold a meeting of his security cabinet to discuss the incident.
Mr Obrador was elected on a platform of cracking down on Mexico’s drug cartels and has tasked a new security force, the National Guard, with battling them.
Under El Chapo’s leadership, the Sinaloa cartel was the largest supplier of drugs to the US, officials say.
Together with the kingpin now behind bars, the cartel is said to be partially controlled by Ovidio Guzmán Lopez, who is accused of drug trafficking in the US and considered to be in his twenties. But he is not one of El Chapo’s best-known sons.
What happened in Culiacán?
The state government said Mr Guzmán was found at a house by a police patrol on a routine search.
It said cartel members subsequently launched the enormous attack in an attempt to seize him back from the police. Fighters also attacked security forces in different parts of Culiacán.
Witnesses described scenes of panic in the city, a stronghold for the Sinaloa cartel, as families with small children fled from gunfire.
“No one knows what’s happening but everyone is afraid and they have told us not to come in to work tomorrow,” Ricardo González, a city resident, told AP.
Footage on social media revealed a pickup truck with a machine gun mounted on the back, in scenes reminiscent of a war zone.
Other footage showed families scrambling to take cover under cars and in shops as gunfire roared. In one video, a woman asked her father:”Why are they shooting bullets?”
A supposed mugshot taken of Mr Guzmán while he was detained by authorities was shared widely on social networking.
Sinaloa state’s head of safety, Cristobal Castañeda, told the Televisa network that two people were killed and 21 injured, based on preliminary information.
Pictures showing what seemed to be dead bodies on the streets suggest the death toll could rise.
Some police officers were wounded, local officials said, but would not provide further details.
As fighting brought the city to a standstill, the Sinaloa state authorities said an unknown number of inmates had escaped from the Aguaruto prison.
It said it was”working to restore calm and order” and called on residents to”remain calm, stay away from the streets and be very careful to official advisories on the evolving situation”.
With time, it became one of the biggest traffickers of drugs to the United States. He escaped a Mexican prison through a tunnel in 2015, but was later arrested. He was extradited to the United States in 2017.
He had been accused of having helped export tens of thousands of tonnes of cocaine into the united states and of conspiring to manufacture and distribute heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana.
El Chapo, 62, was found guilty in New York of 10 charges, including drug trafficking and money laundering.