Notorious drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Loera has been recaptured six months after his elaborate escape from Mexico’s most secure prison, according to the country’s president.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto wrote on his Twitter account on Friday: ‘Mission accomplished: We have him.
‘My appreciation to the Security Cabinet of the Government of the Republic for this important achievement for the rule of law in Mexico,’ he added.
Mexican marines captured El Chapo, which means ‘the short one’ in Spanish, during a raid in the town of Los Mochis, located in the kingpin’s home state of Sinloa. Five cartel gangsters were killed and another six arrested in the raid, while one Mexican marine sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
The Mexican police say the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Marshals aided in El Chapo’s recapture.
It is not yet clear whether El Chapo will be extradited to the US, but he was seen being bundled on to a plane by security officials late on Friday afternoon.
The raid also ended in the capture of El Chapo’s right-hand man ‘El Cholo’, a hitman who was also on the run from the law.
Good news: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announces the arrest of notorious drug kingpin El Chapo from the courtyard of the Presidential Palace on Friday
Back in handcuffs: Notorious drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Loera has been recaptured six months since he escaped from Mexico’s most secure prison
Mexican authorities say the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Marshals aided in El Chapo’s arrest
The cartel boss was wearing a simple tank top when he was arrested, which showed off several fresh scratches on his arms.
In one picture, El Chapo stands in a bedroom, where a photo of a scantilly-clad woman hangs in the background – his hands shackled in handcuffs in front of him as he stares off to the side of the camera.
In the other photo, he sits in a car with another man, with his hand held up to his chin in thought.
The man seen slumped alongside el Chapo in the back of the police van is his chief hitman Orso Iván Gastélum Cruz known as ‘El Cholo’.
LIke El Chapo he too was on the run, having escaped from prison in 2009.
His girlfriend, the winner of Miss Sinaloa 2012 was gunned down and killed by the army during a manhunt for him in 2012.
The Mexican Navy said in a statement that marines acting on a tip raided a motel in the town of Los Mochis around 4:30am. They were fired on from inside the structure.
A Mexican law enforcement official says authorities located El Chapo several days ago, based on reports that he was in Los Mochis.
The official says that authorities even searched storm drains in the area. The official was not authorized to talk to the press and spoke on condition of anonymity.
At an afternoon press conference, the Mexican president announced El Chapo’s arrest and thanked those who spent months tracking down the criminal.
‘Today, Mexico confirms that its institutions have the capabilities that are necessary to face and overcome anyone who threatens the tranquility of Mexican families,’ Nieto said.
El Chapo’s arrest ‘demonstrates that when Mexicans work together, there is no adversity that can not be overcome,’ he added.
Covered: Officials covered El Chapo’s head with a white towel as they escorted him onto a small plane after his arrest Friday morning
At the hideout marines seized two armored vehicles, eight rifles, one handgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Photos of the arms seized suggested that Guzman and his associates had a fearsome arsenal at the non-descript white building in which he was hiding.
Two of the rifles seized 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. And an assault rifle had a .40 mm grenade launcher, and at least one grenade.
Guzman faces multiple federal drug trafficking indictments in the U.S. as well as Mexico, and was on the DEA’s most-wanted list.
The DEA says it is ‘extremely pleased’ with El Chapo’s recapture. On its Twitter account, the DEA congratulated Mexico’s government on nabbing Guzman, saying it salutes ‘the bravery involved in his capture’.
After Guzman was arrested on February 22, 2014, the U.S. said it would file an extradition request, though it’s not clear if that happened.
The Mexican government at the time vehemently denied the need to extradite Guzman, even as many expressed fears he would escape as he did in 2001 while serving a 20-year sentence in the country’s other top-security prison, Puente Grande, in the western state of Jalisco.
It’s unclear if the Mexican government will extradite El Chapo, given his most recent escape. El Chapo is wanted in the states of Arizona, California, Texas, Illinois, New York and Florida.
The Justice Department has no immediate comment on whether it will push for extradition.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is called El Chapo’s recapture ‘a victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States, and a vindication of the rule of law in our countries’.
In a statement, Lynch said Guzman ‘will now have to answer for his alleged crimes’ and congratulated Mexico’s government but did not directly address the sticky issue of extradition.
Senator John McCain tweeted his congratulations to the Mexican authorities and added: ‘Now let’s extradite him to the US.’
El Chapo has been on the run since July, when he used an elaborate underground tunnel to break out of a maximum-security prison in central Mexico.
Magazine: At the building marines seized two armored vehicles, eight rifles, one handgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher
Altiplano, considered the most secure of Mexico’s federal prisons, also houses Zetas drug cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino, and Edgar Valdes Villarreal, known as ‘La Barbie,’ of the Beltran Leyva cartel.
Guzman dropped by ladder into a hole 30 feet deep that connected with a tunnel about 5-feet-6 inches high that was fully ventilated and had lighting.
Authorities also found tools, oxygen tanks and a motorcycle adapted to run on rails that they believe was used to carry dirt out and tools in during the construction.
The tunnel terminated in a half-built house in a farm field.
Guzman’s cartel is known for building elaborate tunnels beneath the Mexico-U.S. border to transport cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana, with ventilation, lighting and even railcars to easily move products.
Since El Chapo broke out of jail in July, Mexican police and military have been desperately tracking the cartel boss.
In September, authorities thought El Chapo escaped the country to Costa Rica, after one of his sons posted a photo to Twitter tagging their location in the Central American country. But authorities were unsuccessful in finding him.
The next month though, marines tracked El Chapo down to a mountainous region in Sinaloa.
Marines engaged in a shootout with El Chapo and his cartel soldiers, and he got away yet again.
However, at the time it was reported that El Chapo appeared to have broken his leg fleeing from authorities.
This is the second time that El Chapo has been recaptured after using his influence to break out of prison.
He was first caught by authorities in Guatemala in 1993, extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison on drug-trafficking-related charges.
Many accounts say he escaped in 2001 in a laundry cart, although there have been several versions of how he got away. What is clear is that he had help from prison guards, who were prosecuted and convicted.
During his first stint as a fugitive, Guzman transformed himself into arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world. His fortune was estimated at more than $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which listed him among the ‘World’s Most Powerful People,’ ranked above the presidents of France and Venezuela.
He finally was tracked down to a modest beachside high-rise in the Pacific Coast resort city of Mazatlan, where he had been hiding with his wife and twin daughters. He was captured in the early morning of February 22, 2014, without a shot fired.
Before they reached him, security forces went on a several-day chase through Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state. They found houses where Guzman supposedly had been staying with steel-enforced doors and the same kind of lighted, ventilated escape tunnels.
Born 58 years ago, according to Interpol, he and allies took control of the Sinaloa faction when a larger syndicate began to fall apart in 1989.
Even after his 2014 capture, Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel empire continues to stretch throughout North America and reaches as far as Europe and Australia.
The cartel has been heavily involved in the bloody drug war that has torn through parts of Mexico for the last decade, taking an estimated 100,000 lives or more.