Mexican marines recaptured fugitive drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman following an intense military operation, six months after his spectacular prison tunnel escape embarrassed authorities.
The chase for the world’s most-wanted drug lord ended in the northwestern coastal city of Los Mochis, in his Sinaloa home state, where marines clashed with gang suspects before capturing Guzman.
“Mission accomplished: We got him,” Pena Nieto wrote on Twitter.
The arrest followed “intense and careful” intelligence and investigative work that “broke up the network of influence and protection of this criminal,” Pena Nieto said later in a televised address, flanked by his security team at the National Palace.
Pictures circulating in Mexican media show the mustachioed kingpin with a dirty, sleeveless shirt, handcuffed and sitting on a bed. A poster of a woman in a bikini is on a wall.
Another picture shows him in the backseat of a car holding his chin with one hand while sitting next to a shirtless man.
Sinaloa’s governor, Mario Lopez Valdez, told Radio Formula that Guzman was recaptured in a hotel on the outskirts of Los Mochis.
A federal official told AFP that marines tracked him down after an earlier raid on a house.
The navy issued a statement shortly before the arrest became public saying that five suspects were killed in a gunfight with marines, but it did not say whether the raid involved Guzman.
Six people were detained after the shootout, which broke out when marines were tipped off about the presence of armed men in a home, the navy said.
The navy said a suspected gang capo escaped while a dozen weapons, including a rocket-grenade launcher, were seized.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch hailed the arrest as a “blow” to the Sinaloa drug cartel, and said that “he will now have to answer for his alleged crimes, which have resulted in significant violence, suffering and corruption on multiple continents.”
Extradition to US?
Questions will now turn to whether Mexico will extradite Guzman to the United States after balking at the idea before his July escape.
The Mexican attorney general’s office secured an extradition warrant in September, but Guzman’s at-torneys won an injunction that could delay the process.
“The big question is not if they will extradite him, but when,” Alejandro Hope, a security expert and former Mexican intelligence service official, told AFP. “I don’t think that the Mexican government wants to run the risk of another escape.”
On July 11, after 17 months at the Altiplano maximum-security prison in central Mexico, Guzman slipped through a hole in his cell’s shower, climbed on a motorcycle mounted on rails, and traveled 1.5 kilometers (one mile) through a tunnel to freedom.
More than a dozen prison and federal police officials have been arrested on charges of helping Guzman flee, along with several associates of the drug lord who worked from the outside on building the tunnel.
Marines nearly recaptured him in October in a remote mountain region straddling the two states.
Authorities said Guzman injured his face and a leg while falling in the rough terrain as he escaped.
‘Lord of tunnels’
Guzman had been captured on February 22, 2014 in the Sinaloa resort of Mazatlan. He was found in a condo with his wife and their young twin daughters.
He had been on the lam for 13 years after escaping a first time in 2001 from another prison by hiding in a laundry cart. He had spent eight years in prison following his 1993 capture in Guatemala.
The man whose nickname means “Shorty” had used the money from a drug empire whose tentacles reach Europe and Asia to dig himself out of trouble.
He is a legend of Mexico’s underworld, with musicians singing his praise in folk ballads known as “nar-cocorridos,” tributes to drug capos.
With his daring underground escapes and ability to sneak narcotics under the US-Mexico border, he also earned the nickname “Lord of the Tunnels.”
Guzman married an 18-year-old beauty queen in 2007 and is believed to have 10 children with various women. A son was shot dead in a shopping center parking lot in May 2008.