MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Sons of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman accused a former ally of trying to kill them, a prominent journalist said Thursday (Feb 9), indicating a possible battle for the jailed Mexican drug kingpin's succession.
Two weeks after the Sinaloa drug cartel leader was extradited to the United States, broadcast journalist Ciro Gomez Leyva said late Wednesday the sons made the allegation in a handwritten letter sent to him.
The message claims that one of the gang's reputed top lieutenants, Damasio Lopez, convened a meeting with the sons and cartel co-founder Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada on Feb 4.
The letter says Lopez called the meeting to discuss last year's brief kidnapping of at least one of Guzman's sons.
But once they arrived at the meeting, Lopez was not there and gunmen fired at them, killing an unspecified number of bodyguards, the letter alleges.
The sons, who "realised that they were betrayed" by Lopez, ran into a hill, where they were attacked again and wounded before local people helped them, the missive says.
The letter does not say which or how many of Guzman's sons were attacked, but the US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on three of them: Jesus Alfredo, Ivan and Ovidio.
It is also unclear whether the letter refers to Lopez or his son, Damaso Lopez Jr, who is also an alleged cartel operative.
The elder Lopez, who is accused of helping Guzman escape from prison for the first time in 2001, was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine by US prosecutors in 2013.
Guzman, who escaped twice from prison, was extradited to the United States on Jan 19, a year after he was recaptured.
The letter emerged as the northwestern state of Sinaloa has been hit by a series of gunfights that have left at least 21 people dead since last weekend.
Authorities have not said whether the shootouts were linked to a war within the Sinaloa drug cartel.
The death or capture of a drug baron can often lead to internal power struggles in Mexican gangs, though the Sinaloa cartel has avoided such violence in the previous times that Guzman was in prison.
While the letter's authenticity could not be independently verified by AFP, one of Guzman's lawyers, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, told Radio Formula that he believes it was sent by the sons.