After security forces took one of Joaquin Guzman’s sons (known as El Chapo) Guzman, gunfights broke out in Sinaloa’s capital. He is being held on drug trafficking and other charges by the US.
Luis Cresencio Sandoval, Defence Secretary, said that Ovidio Guzman, 32 years old was captured by Army and National Guard personnel in Culiacan in a pre-dawn raid.
Ovidio was arrested three years ago after a failed attempt to arrest him. President Andrew Manuel Lopez Obrador directed the military to release him from prison after high-powered gunmen had attacked the city.
Sinaloa’s local and state officials warned residents to stay in, and suspended local government activities. Schools were also closed. Culiacan’s international airport was closed by the Mexican military amid gunfire.
Aeromexico, a Mexican airline, said that one of its planes was hit by gunfire before a scheduled flight to Mexico City. However, no one was injured.
Online passenger videos showed passengers hiding on the ground of the plane while the sound of shooting was heard behind them.
David Tellez, a passenger, captured video of people sitting on the plane after hearing gunshots. He was traveling with his wife, three children, and his mother-in-law.
Sky News’ Mr Tellez captured the crying of his daughter and said: “While I was on the plane about to take off, I saw planes from the Army land. Then, five seconds before takeoff, I heard gunshots. Everyone got to the ground, and the pilot returned to the terminal.
“Then, I discovered that the plane had been attacked. We don’t want to leave the airport as the city is on fire. Many roads are blocked and we are afraid to go. So, we will stay here.
According to Mr Tellez, airport staff told him to use a bathroom while he checked in. Then they told him to go on with his flight.
Other clips show heavy fighting in the city, as helicopter gunfire lit up the sky.
Ovidio was captured ahead of Lopez Obrador hosting the North American leaders summit in Mexico City next Wednesday, where Joe Biden will likely want to address drug trafficking.
Mike Vigil, DEA’s former chief international operations officer, stated that “This is a significant blow against the Sinaloa cartel”
“It won’t, however, stop the flow of drug into the US. Mexico should exonerate him.
Six month surveillance in cartel territory
According to Mr Sandoval, Ovidio was captured after six months of surveillance and reconnaissance in cartel territory.
National Guard troops saw SUVs with homemade armour and coordinated with the army to create a perimeter around them and force the occupants to leave.
The security forces were then under attack but managed to control the situation and identify Ovidio among those present.
Cartel members set up 19 roadblocks that blocked all access points to Culiacan including the airport and the local army base.
Leader of the ‘the juniors’ faction
According to Mr Sandoval, Ovidio was the leader of Sinaloa’s Sinaloa faction called “los menores”, or “the juniors”, also known as “los Chapitos or “the little Chapos”.
Two of his brothers, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman (and Jesus Alfredo Guzman) are the other “little Chapos”. They are thought to have been involved in cartel operations alongside Ismael Zambada.
Mr Vigil stated that the Chapitos had been exercising greater control over the cartel since Zambada was in poor physical condition and was isolated in the mountains.
He said that the Chapitos knew El Mayo would die and (the cartel) would fall apart if they didn’t have control.”
“It is very important that Ovidio be extradited quickly by the US and that Mexico does so.”
US offered $5m in reward
Ovidio was indicted in Washington DC in 2018 for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis in the US.
Ovidio has been a key figure in cartel operations since his father’s death. The US offered $5 million (PS4m) reward to anyone who can help them.
It is not clear if Ovidio will be extradited as his father to the US, who is currently serving a life sentence at Colorado’s Supermax prison.