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Drug Lord 'El Chapo' Recaptured in Mexico

  • VOA News

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers during a presentation at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico, Jan. 8, 2016.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers during a presentation at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico, Jan. 8, 2016.

Mexican officials are transferring fugitive drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman back to prison, after capturing him Friday seven months after he escaped from prison.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced Guzman's capture earlier Friday with a brief message on Twitter saying, "Mission accomplished. We have him."

Guzman was later shown to reporters, dressed in a blue shirt and track pants, being transferred from an armored van to a helicopter that is taking him and at least one accomplice back to prison.

Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez spoke to reporters late Friday, saying Guzman's recapture was the product of a huge surveillance operation that involved a film crew that had been working on a biography of the drug trafficker.

Guzman brazenly escaped from prison through a secret underground tunnel seven months ago.

The Mexican marines, acting on a tip, raided a home before dawn Friday in the city of Los Mochis, in Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa. The assault team was fired on from inside the structure.

Mexican officials said five suspects were killed and six others arrested. One marine was slightly wounded.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the capture "a victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States, and a vindication of the rule of law in our countries."

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said it was "extremely pleased" with the news.

Lynch did not mention Guzman's possible extradition to the United States. The drug kingpin faces charges in multiple jurisdictions across the United States. The U.S. has sought his extradition, though Mexico in the past has said he would serve sentences in Mexico first.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement late Friday Guzman's "recapture demonstrates the Mexican government's steadfast commitment to combating drug trafficking organizations and the violence they perpetuate."

Mexican federal authorities had been focusing their manhunt since October on a mountainous region of Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico. Tracking teams had reported it appeared that Guzman had been injured while fleeing marines in rugged terrain near the borders of Sinaloa and Durango states.

Guzman's July 11 prison escape - his second in the past 14 years - was accomplished through a 1.5-kilometer underground tunnel, dug in secret from his cell to a nearby village. It was a major embarrassment to the administration of President Pena Nieto, which had been praised for its aggressive push against Mexico's top drug traffickers.

Guzman was first captured in 1993, but escaped in 2001 with the help of prison guards. After more than a decade on the loose, he was recaptured early in 2014, with the help of intelligence that U.S. authorities provided to Mexico.

Mexico has issued arrest warrants for more than 20 former officials, guards and police officers for their alleged participation in Guzman's escape last year. Ten civilians are also in detention.

Guzman escaped through a rectangular hole found underneath a shower of his prison cell, moving through a fully ventilated tunnel equipped with electric lighting. Authorities also found a motorcycle modified to run on rails; the vehicle apparently was used to haul tools and dirt away from the subterranean site during construction.

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