The world’s biggest drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been recaptured by the Mexican police six months after he escaped from prison.
Guzman, head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, was caught on Friday evening at a roadside motel after an operation that killed 5 at a safe house in the city of Los Mochis, in Chapo’s native state of Sinaloa. He was picked up by marines who were tipped off about the presence of armed men in a home, the navy said in a statement.
“Mission accomplished: We got him. I want to inform Mexicans that Joaquin Guzman Loera has been arrested,” said President Enrique Nieto Pena Nieto on Twitter.
After his arrest, Guzman was pushed into a Marines helicopter and was flown to the same prison from which he had escaped six months ago. Mexican marines have been conducting extensive operations in the northwestern states of Sinaloa and Durango in search of Guzman since the 58-year-old’s dramatic escape from prison on July 11, 2015.
“Today, the federal forces captured Joaquin Guzman Loera, the most-wanted fugitive in the world, and Orso Ivan Gastelum, demonstrating once again that there doesn’t exist a criminal beyond the reach of the Mexican State,” said Mexico’s Government Secretary Miguel Osorio.
Guzman was once featured in the Forbes list of billionaires for having led a cartel that smuggled billions of dollars worth of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines into the United States. Guzman was also famous for fighting vicious turf wars with other Mexican gangs.
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. He then traveled 1.5 kilometers through a tunnel to escape.
This was not the only time that Guzman had escaped from prison. Earlier too in 2001 Guzman had escaped from a prison in Jalisco by hiding in a laundry cart after he had bribed prison officials.
Guzman’s arrest comes as a big relief for Mexican President Pena Nieto who had resisted US’ request to extradite the drug kingpin. Guzman’s slipping away from a high security prison had embarrassed Pena Nieto and dented Mexico-US relations.
Guzman now faces the prospect of being tried in the United States. But the process could take months, although U.S. Republican party presidential hopeful Marco Rubio called for the US administration to immediately pursue Guzman’s extradition.
(With inputs from agencies)