Violence broke out in the city of Culiacan on Thursday when authorities detained one of El Chapo’s sons.
Gunfighting between drug cartel members and Mexican police forced civilians to run for cover.
Gunfights between Mexican police and drug cartel members rocked the northwestern city of Culiacan on Thursday after special security forces located the son of the notorious drug kingpin El Chapo.
Head of Mexico’s Department of Public Safety and Protection Alfonso Durazo said 30 members of the National Guard and army were patrolling in Culiacan when they were fired upon from a nearby house. Officers pushed back the attack and detained four people inside, including a man who identified himself as Ovidio Guzman Lopez.
A large group of heavily armed gunmen then attacked the house from outside.
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Violence erupted around Culiacan, a stronghold of El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel, following news that the police had localized Ovidio Guzman. Fires and gun battles broke out throughout the city.
Authorities chose to call off the operation. “With the goal of safeguarding the well-being and tranquility of Culiacan society, officials in the security cabinet decided to suspend the actions,” said Durazo.
Mexican media reported this included releasing Ovidio Guzman. Authorities have yet to confirm, but a lawyer for the “El Chapo” family told the Associated Press that he is “alive and free”.
The less influential of El Chapo’s two sons, Ovidio Guzman has been accused of distributing cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana for the Sinaloa cartel. His father was sentenced to life in prison in the United States.
Prisoners escape, civilians take cover
Culiacan witnessed hours of gunfire and chaos, during which civilians were forced to run for cover on suburban streets or hide in the aisles of supermarkets. Burning vehicles blocked the entrances to the city, a common tactic used to make it difficult for police to maneuver.
In videos posted on social media, cartel gunmen were shown roaming the city in trucks with machine guns and other high-caliber weapons. Videos also showed a burning gas station and vehicles set on fire.
Amidst the fighting, prisoners escaped from Culiacan de Aguaruto prison. Video footage showed around 20 people running in the streets but it is unclear how many prisoners escaped during the shootout and how many were recaptured.
While an undetermined number of police officers were injured in the battle, state police said there were no confirmed deaths yet.
Sinaloa’s football club Dorados announced that it had canceled its game that day due to security threats.
Joaquin Guzman Loera, better known as El Chapo, came to be considered one the world’s most powerful drug traffickers.
While in prison, his sons Ovidio Archivaldo and Jesus Alfredo Guzman, known as “los Chapitos,” assumed leadership of the Sinaloa cartel together with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a former partner of El Chapo.
El Chapo successfully escaped from prison in January 2001 but was recaptured in February 2014. After only 17 months, he made yet another escape from a maximum-security prison. For a third time, the cartel leader was arrested in 2016 and a year later was extradited to the United States.
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