‘Mission accomplished’: Mexican President says ‘El Chapo’ caught

Updated 11:33 PM EST, Fri January 8, 2016
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Drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted to a helicopter at Mexico City's airport on January 8, 2016 following his recapture during an intense military operation in Los Mochis, in Sinaloa State. Mexican marines recaptured fugitive drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on Friday in the northwest of the country, six months after his spectacular prison break embarrassed authorities.   AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA        (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted to a helicopter at Mexico City's airport on January 8, 2016 following his recapture during an intense military operation in Los Mochis, in Sinaloa State. Mexican marines recaptured fugitive drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on Friday in the northwest of the country, six months after his spectacular prison break embarrassed authorities. AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP / ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

NEW: Mexican forces escorted Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman out of an armored vehicle and into a helicopter

A Mexican navy operation in a coastal city leads to drug lord's capture, official says

Five assailants are killed, and six people are arrested in the operation, Mexican navy says

CNN —  

[Breaking news update, 11:33 p.m. ET]

Mexican forces escorted notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman out of an armored vehicle and into a helicopter late Friday night following his arrest after months on the run.

Mexican security forces trying to capture notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in Sinaloa encountered heavy gunfire that led to the deaths of various suspects, the attorney general said.

[Breaking news update, 11:22 p.m. ET]

The people linked to the July escape of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman included two pilots, one of his attorneys and a brother-in-law, the attorney general said. Guzman was arrested Friday.

[Previous story published 6:55 p.m. ET]

(CNN) – Mexican authorities snared drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in a bloody raid Friday, recapturing one of the world’s most notorious and slippery criminals.

“Mission Accomplished,” President Enrique Peña Nieto announced via Twitter. “We have him.”

Members of Mexico’s navy caught Guzman in an operation about 4:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. ET) in the coastal city of Los Mochis in Sinaloa state, a senior law enforcement official in Mexico told CNN.

Several people aligned with Guzman died in the raid, the official said. The Mexican navy put the number of dead at five, with six others arrested. No navy personnel were killed, and only one was injured.

Peña Nieto said the recapture of Guzman culminates “days and nights” of collaborative work among Mexican intelligence and police agencies.

“They are a pride to our nation,” he said, referring to the multiagency operation in an address at the National Palace in Mexico City.

Without specifically mentioning how Guzman had already twice escaped from Mexican prisons, the Mexican President said the recapture of Guzman ought to restore Mexicans’ faith in their government and justice system.

Friday’s announcement marked the third time that Guzman was captured by Mexican authorities.

“The arrest today is extremely important for the security institutions of the government,” the President said. “Today our institutions have demonstrated one more time that our citizens can trust them, and our institutions are at the level that has the strength and determination to complete any mission that is granted to them.”

Guzman’s recapture represents a major success in what has been an embarrassing ordeal for Mexico. For many, “El Chapo” has been a symbol of the Mexican government’s ineptitude and corruption.

He has led one of the country’s most powerful, violent drug cartels and escaped maximum-security prisons not once, but twice, the latest in July when he busted out through a hole into a mile-long tunnel and then on to freedom.

Last year’s breakout spurred major criticism about the Mexican government’s ability to safeguard such a notorious criminal, with some saying he should have been held in the United States.

U.S. officials were aware of the operation to capture Guzman, according to a law enforcement official.

The Americans provided assistance in the search, but his capture was the Mexican government’s operation, the official said.

An image provided Friday by an unidentified source purports to show Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera handcuffed after his detention in a place in Mexico not yet revealed by authorities.
Xinhua/Sipa USA
An image provided Friday by an unidentified source purports to show Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera handcuffed after his detention in a place in Mexico not yet revealed by authorities.

Mexican authorities were closing in on him for at least 24 hours before special forces moved in. The official said it’s not a surprise El Chapo was located in Sinaloa.

“There was a belief he was in Sinaloa. That was his refuge. We would have been surprised if it were anywhere but Sinaloa,” the official said.

Some U.S. officials were skeptical that Guzman would ever be captured again, especially alive, given the amount of protection he has in Mexico and his ability to escape prison twice, the official said.

The U.S. Justice Department previously sought extradition of El Chapo to the United States, and it is likely that the Justice Department will try to do so again.

U.S. indicates Washington wants ‘El Chapo’ extradited

U.S. Sen. John McCain urged such a transfer Friday when he tweeted, “Congratulations to the Mexican Navy on the capture of El Chapo. Now let’s extradite him to the US.”

The raid began after a citizen complained about armed people in a home, and when Mexican special forces went to the scene, they were fired upon by alleged members of organized crime, the Mexican navy said.

On Friday, Mexican authorities released a video of a person identified as Guzman, whose head was covered and who was being led by several armed officers from a vehicle to an airplane. Authorities released a video of a white structure where the raid occurred, and the footage showed several weapons.

In all, authorities seized four armored vehicles, eight rifles, a handgun, ammunition, and a tube rocket launcher with two charges, the navy said.

Veteran cartel

The Sinaloa state native started his drug cartel in 1980. He became a powerful figure, leading a multibillion-dollar empire that supplied much of the marijuana, cocaine and heroin sold on American streets.

He started his own cartel in 1980, expanding it into other states and even poaching some of his mentor’s territory.

That creation – the Sinaloa cartel – soon became Mexico’s most powerful and richest, a multibillion empire that supplied much of the marijuana, cocaine and heroin sold on American streets.

U.S. indictments claim the organization used assassins and hit squads to show its muscle.

The rivalry with other drug cartels has spurred an ongoing drug war that’s left thousands of Mexicans dead.

“He’s the epitome of the problem,” Malcolm Beith, author of “The Last Narco,” said of the man whose nickname translates as “Shorty.” “He’s a poor kid who had some family connections in the drug trade, no options, no real education … (and) becomes a big-time drug lord.”

Daring escapes create a legend

Authorities first caught up with Guzman in 1993 in Guatemala. He was extradited to Mexico and sent to the Puente Grande maximum-security prison following his conviction.

But in 2001, he escaped using a laundry cart. He evaded Mexican authorities for years.

His legend grew as he evaded Mexican authorities, with stories of him helping the poor and paying everyone’s tab at restaurants.

Singers in Mexico and the United States even hailed his exploits, with rapper Gucci Mane singing, “All I wanna be is El Chapo. And when I meet him I’mma tell him bravo.”

His freedom ended in 2014, when he was arrested in the Mexican resort town of Mazatlan.

Intense manhunt after latest escape

This time, Guzman was sent to Altiplano Federal Prison in Almoloya de Juarez. But he escaped in July, crawling through a hole in his cell block’s shower area into a lighted, ventilated tunnel, then to a half-built house.

He then traveled north about 140 kilometers (85 miles) to San Juan del Rio, where two small planes were awaiting his arrival and took off from an airstrip, Attorney General Arely Gomez has said.

At the time, the Mexican President said he was “deeply troubled” by what he called “a very unfortunate event.”

“This represents, without a doubt, an affront to the Mexican state,” he said. “But also I am confident that the institutions of the Mexican state, particularly those in charge of public safety, are at the level, with the strength and determination, to recapture this criminal.”

Since his escape, Guzman had been rumored to be many places, including