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Border & Immigration

Mexican President: Drug Lord 'El Chapo' Guzman Re-Arrested

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, is escorted to a helicopter in Mexico City following his capture overnight in the beach resort town of Mazatlan, Feb. 22, 2014.
Associated Press
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, is escorted to a helicopter in Mexico City following his capture overnight in the beach resort town of Mazatlan, Feb. 22, 2014.

The world's most-wanted drug lord was captured for a third time in a daring raid by Mexican marines Friday, six months after he tunneled out of a maximum security prison in a made-for-Hollywood escape that deeply embarrassed the government and strained ties with the United States.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the capture of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman using his Twitter account: "mission accomplished: we have him."

Key Dates In Mexico's Pursuit Of Drug Lord 'El Chapo' Guzman

June 10, 1993: Mexican authorities announce Guzman's first capture in Guatemala.

1995: Guzman is convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Jan. 19, 2001: Guzman escapes from one of Mexico's two top-security prisons, in Jalisco state, allegedly in a laundry cart.

2012: Mexican federal police nearly capture Guzman in a coastal mansion in Los Cabos, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with dozens of other foreign ministers in the same resort town.

Feb. 22, 2014: Mexican marines capture Guzman in a condo in Mazatlan after he eluded them for days through tunnels in Culiacan, also in the state of Sinaloa.

July 11, 2015: Guzman escapes from the country's top-security prison in Mexico State through a mile-long tunnel.

Jan. 8, 2016: Mexican marines capture Guzman in an operation in Los Mochis, Sinaloa.

Source: Associated Press

Guzman was apprehended after a shootout between gunmen and Mexican marines in Los Mochis, a seaside city in Guzman's home state of Sinaloa, said a federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by name. He said Guzman was taken alive and was not wounded.

Five people were killed and one Mexican marine wounded in the clash at a house in an upscale neighborhood of Los Mochis. The marine's injuries were not life threatening.

It was unclear if Guzman was there or nearby when the raid was underway. A law enforcement official who was not authorized to be quoted by name said Guzman was captured at a motel on the outskirts of Los Mochis.

That official said Friday's raid on the house was related to the later capture of Guzman at the hotel. Guzman may have been at the house and fled while his gunmen and bodyguards provided covering fire from the house, the official said.

Marines checked the storm drain system, though it was unclear if Guzman had once again fled through the drains. In 2015, he escaped capture by fleeing through a network of interconnected tunnels in the drainage system under Culiacan, the Sinaloa state capital.

The Mexican law enforcement official said authorities located Guzman several days ago, based on reports he was in Los Mochis. Peña Nieto said in a televised speech Friday that "careful and intensive intelligence work was carried out for months" leading up to the arrest.

The Mexican Navy said in a statement that marines raided the home after receiving a tip about armed men at the home. They were fired on from inside the structure, it said. Six suspects were arrested.

Marines seized two armored vehicles, eight rifles, one handgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher at the home, the statement added.

Photos of the arms seized showed that two of the rifles were .50-caliber sniper guns, capable of penetrating most bullet-proof vests and cars. The grenade launcher was found loaded, with an extra round nearby. An assault rifle had a 40-mm grenade launcher and at least one grenade.

After his first capture in Guatemala in June 1993, Guzman was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He reportedly made his 2001 escape from the maximum security prison in a laundry cart, though some have discounted that version.

His second escape last July was even more audacious. He slipped down a hole in his shower stall in plain view of guards into a mile-long tunnel dug from a property outside the prison. The tunnel had ventilation, lights and a motorbike on rails, illustrating the extent to which corruption was involved in covering up the elaborate operation.

The escape came 18 months after authorities firmly pledged to keep him behind bars.

Peña Nieto Friday called the capture of Guzman a "victory for the rule of law" that demonstrates that Mexicans can have confidence in their institutions, using the capture to boost the administration's lagging credibility after a series of scandals.

"Mexicans can count on a government decided and determined to build a better country," Peña Nieto said.

Ev Meade, director of the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute, told KPBS shortly after the July escape that Mexican authorities' failure to keep Guzman behind bars affirmed the incredulity many Mexican citizens feel over government missteps in their country.

"It's an almost ironic celebration of the fact that he showed the ineffectiveness of the Mexican government once again," Meade told KPBS. "But that very quickly turns to outrage and indignation. People feel like this is a national shame, that a country that has great hopes for itself has not achieved what it wants to achieve regarding citizenship and democracy."

The United States filed requests for extradition for Guzman on June 25, before he escaped from prison. 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.

Guzmán faces indictments in San Diego, as well as several other U.S. district courts.

"It is the practice of the United States to seek extradition whenever defendants subject to U.S. charges are apprehended in another country," said Peter Carr, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, in an email to KPBS.

He declined to comment on current proceedings. Laura Duffy, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, did not respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration hailed the capture as proof of the close relationship between the two countries. "The arrest is a significant achievement in our shared fight against transnational organized crime, violence, and drug trafficking," a DEA statement said.

The U.S. Justice Department commended the working relationship as well. "I salute the Mexican law enforcement and military personnel who have worked tirelessly in recent months to bring Guzman to justice," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

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