Mexico drug lord Guzman injured while fleeing operation to recapture him: Official

Drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by marines on Feb 22, 2014 in Mexico City.
Drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by marines on Feb 22, 2014 in Mexico City.PHOTO: AFP

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Fugitive Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman fled during an operation to recapture him in recent days, injuring his leg and face, the federal government said on Friday (Oct 16).

The authorities said efforts to nab Guzman, who escaped from prison on July 11, have focused on the north-west region in the past few weeks after foreign governments shared intelligence information.

"Due to these actions and to avoid his arrest, the fugitive escaped in a hurry, which according to the information that was collected, caused him injuries to his leg and face," the government said in a statement.

"It is important to specify that these injuries were not the product of a direct clash," it said, without specifying the extent of the injuries.

"The security Cabinet continues to conduct all actions that will allow the recapture of this criminal."

The government did not say exactly where the operation took place, but the governor of the north-western state of Sinaloa said Wednesday that special forces have been conducting operations in the neighboring state of Durango.

US Drug Enforcement Administration officials have told AFP that they believe Guzman fled to the rugged mountain region of his home state stronghold of Sinaloa following his jailbreak.

The states of Durango, Sinaloa and Chihuahua meet in a drug-producing region known as the Gold Triangle, a bastion of Guzman's Sinaloa drug cartel.

US law enforcement officials say Guzman, 58, likely fled there because he enjoys the support of the local population.

Guzman's escape was a major embarrassment to President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration, which has been scrambling to locate him.

US network NBC News reported that Mexican marines closed in on Guzman last week after US drug agents intercepted cellphone signals suggesting he was hiding at a ranch near Cosala, Sinaloa state, in the Sierra Madre mountains.

Citing three sources with knowledge of the operation, NBC said the marines raided the ranch in helicopters, but turned back after taking fire from Guzman's gunmen.

The marines later went in on foot and found cellphones, medication and two-way radios. Guzman and his henchmen are believed to have fled in all-terrain vehicles, the network said. But a week after the raid, officials are "losing hope" that Guzman will imminently be caught, it reported.

Guzman fled a maximum-security prison near Mexico City just 17 months after authorities captured him following a 13-year manhunt. He escaped through a 1.5km tunnel with a redesigned motorcycle on special tracks, emerging in a house outside the prison.

A new video of his escape was leaked to the Televisa channel this week, showing that loud hammering could be heard in his cell moments before he descended down the hole.

It took guards nearly 40 minutes to go inside his cell after he escaped. More than a dozen prison officials have been detained over charges they helped him flee.

Mr Pena Nieto had refused to hand Guzman over to the United States, but the authorities have now secured an arrest warrant to extradite him if he is captured again.

Guzman was first arrested in 1993 in Guatemala, but he escaped from a prison in western Mexico in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart.