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Manhunt Underway for Mexican Cartel Leader

  • VOA News

FILE - Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican navy marines at a navy hanger in Mexico City, Feb. 22, 2014.

FILE - Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican navy marines at a navy hanger in Mexico City, Feb. 22, 2014.

Mexico's notorious drug kingpin, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, has escaped from a maximum-security prison for the second time in 14 years.

Mexican National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido told a news conference on Sunday that Guzman, who headed the powerful Sinaloa cartel, was last seen late Saturday in the shower area of the Altiplano prison.

He said Guzman escaped through a rectangular hole found underneath the shower. He said the hole connected to a 1.5 kilometer long tunnel that led to the local town.

Officials said Guzman dropped by ladder into a hole 10 meters deep that connected with the tunnel that was fully ventilated and had lighting. Authorities also found a motorcycle adapted to run on rails that they believe was used to carry dirt out and tools in during the construction.

Rubido said 18 prison workers are being held for questioning.

Security forces have suspended flights at Toluca airport, which is near the prison outside Mexico City.

The Sinaloa cartel is known for the elaborate tunnels built underneath the Mexico-U.S. border to transport cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana, with ventilation, lighting and even railcars to easily move products.

Major embarrassment

Guzman's escape is a major embarrassment to the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, which had received plaudits for its aggressive approach to top drug lords. Since the government took office in late 2012, Mexican authorities have nabbed or killed six of them, including Guzman.

Pena Nieto, who arrived in France on Sunday, said he wants a full investigation into the escape. He also voiced confidence in the ability of Mexican law enforcement officials to recapture Guzman.

Guzman was caught in February 2014 after more than a decade on the run. He was first captured in 1993, but escaped from prison in 2001 with the help of prison guards.

He is wanted in the United States on various drug trafficking charges. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Sunday offered Mexico the assistance of U.S. federal agents in the search.

The Sinaloa cartel controls most of the border crossings for illegal drugs between Mexico and the United States.

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