Ten soldiers and 19 drug cartel members were killed and dozens wounded in a gun battle surrounding the capture of the son of the infamous drug kingpin known as El Chapo, Mexican officials said Friday. went.
Ovidio Guzmán López, a son of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, who is said to be a leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel once led by his father, was arrested on Thursday in what the government called the country’s biggest crime syndicate. A major setback for one of the most notorious criminals was reported. organizations. But the scale and high cost of the operation were not made public until a day later at a news conference led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
As cartel members fired at soldiers, including .50-caliber machine guns, and set up roadblocks with flaming vehicles in an effort to free young Mr. Guzmán, more than 3,500 soldiers joined the operation, fire on the ground engaged and from the plane, officials said.
In addition to the 29 killed, 35 soldiers were wounded by gunfire and 21 suspected cartel members were arrested. Officials did not say whether anyone other than the soldiers were injured. He said the government seized 53 vehicles, including six .50-caliber machine guns, four .50-caliber semiautomatic rifles, 26 other long guns, pistols and 26, as well as quantities of fentanyl and cocaine.
“With these actions, the Army, Air Force and National Guard reaffirm the unwavering determination of the federal government to continue operations against organized crime,” said Defense Secretary Luis Crescenio Sandoval Gonzalez.
The capture gives Mr. López Obrador a victory just days before he is to host a summit meeting with Canadian President Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And it at least partially clears the stain of Mr. Guzmán’s previous arrest in 2019, when authorities were forced to free him after being overpowered by cartel gunmen.
Thursday’s operation, officials said, reflected lessons learned from that experience, including the need for massive numbers. Instead of the cartel’s stronghold, the village of Jesús María, about 25 miles north-west of Culiacan, was captured, limiting both the risk of civilian casualties – there have been no reports of any, he said – and reinforcements that the cartel can muster.
“We did not come to win war, we came to establish peace,” said Rosa Isela Rodríguez Velasquez, security secretary in the president’s cabinet.
On Thursday morning, a National Guard surveillance patrol spotted six suspicious vehicles that appeared to be armored, and called in military support, Mr. Sandoval said. But the occupants of the vehicles disobeyed orders to exit and be searched, attacked the soldiers and fled.
Mr. Sandoval said that after they surrounded him at a house in the village, authorities arrested 18 armed men, including a man who identified himself as Ovidio Guzmán, whom authorities on Friday referred to as “Ovidio N.” referred to as
“A number of criminal groups managed to group together with the intention of protecting Ovidio N., who attacked military personnel,” Mr. Sandoval said. Seven soldiers were killed in that second clash and the cartel began using heavy machine guns, he said, prompting soldiers to call in more reinforcements, including aircraft.
Instead of trying to take Mr. Guzmán to the streets the cartel may block, Mr. Sandoval said, adding that an army helicopter landed in the midst of the shooting and took him to Mexico City. He said two military planes were hit by gunfire and forced to land, and a commercial plane at Culiacan airport was also hit.
More fighting took place around the nine burning streets, the cartel said, and a battle in the afternoon resulted in more troop casualties. Mr López Obrador said all obstacles had been removed.
Mr Guzmán faces prosecution in both Mexico and the United States. His father, who famously escaped from a Mexican prison in 2015, was recaptured and extradited to the United States. He is serving a life sentence in a US federal prison.
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