MEXICO CITY – Fugitive drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was recaptured six months after he escaped from a maximum security prison, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced Friday.
A federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by name said Guzman was apprehended after a shootout with Mexican marines in the city of Los Mochis, in Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa. He said Guzman was taken alive and was not wounded.
Responding to what was seen as one of the biggest embarrassments of his administration — Guzman’s July 11 escape through a tunnel from Mexico’s highest-security prison — Pena Nieto wrote in his Twitter account on Friday: “mission accomplished: we have him.”
“I would like to inform Mexicans that Joaquin Guzman Loera has been detained.”
The U.S. Justice Department had no immediate comment on whether it would push to extradite Guzman to the United States, where he faces charges in multiple different jurisdictions across the country.
Five people were killed and one Mexican marine wounded in the clash. It was unclear if Guzman captured at the house or nearby when the raid was under way.
Another law enforcement official said authorities located Guzman several days ago, based on reports he was in Los Mochis.
The official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said authorities had even searched storm drains in the area. In 2014, Guzman escaped arrest by fleeing through a network of interconnected tunnels in the city’s drainage system in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan.
The Mexican Navy said in a statement that marines acting on a tip raided a home in the town of Los Mochis before dawn. They were fired on from inside the structure. Five suspects were killed and six others arrested. The marine’s injuries were not life threatening.
At the home marines seized two armoured vehicles, eight rifles, one handgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Photos of the arms seized in the raid suggested that Guzman and his associates had a fearsome arsenal at the non-descript white house.
Two of the rifles seized were.50-calibre sniper guns, capable of penetrating most bullet-proof vests and cars. The grenade launcher was found loaded, with an extra round nearby. And an assault rifle had a .40 mm grenade launcher, and at least one grenade.
Some in Mexico had doubted Guzman would allow himself to be captured alive, and others doubted that Mexico — given the successive embarrassments of his two escapes from prison — would want to hold him again in a Mexican prison.
“Many people had doubted he could be recaptured,” said Mexican security analyst Raul Benitez. “It is a big success for the government.”
The United States filed requests for extradition for Guzman on June 25, before he escaped. In September, a judge issued a second provisional arrest warrant on U.S. charges of organized crime, money laundering drug trafficking, homicide and others.
Former Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam had bragged earlier that Mexico wouldn’t extradite Guzman until he had served his sentences in Mexico.
Benitez said such bragging “makes me ashamed.”
“It would be better for the Americans to take him away,” he said.