Mexican officials say escaped drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman suffered multiple injuries after authorities attempted to recapture him.
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Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the elusive Mexican drug kingpin who escaped from a high security prison in July, was injured in his leg and face during a “headlong flight” as authorities recently closed in on his mountain hideout, Mexico’s National Security Cabinet confirmed in a statement late Friday.
The government said Guzman was not wounded in a direct confrontation with law enforcement agencies but during a hasty retreat as Mexican Marines moved to surround his location. Guzman is known by the nickname “El Chapo” or, in English, “Shorty.”
The brief statement came in response to a report from NBC News that Guzman he had been hurt while evading capture last week.
The statement by Mexico’s security Cabinet provided no details on when or exactly where the operation took place. It said only that information-sharing with international agencies had led authorities to zero in on Guzman in northwestern Mexico.
“As a result of these actions, and to avoid his capture, in recent days, the fugitive engaged in a hasty retreat, which, according to the information received, caused him injuries to one leg and the face,” the statement said.
“It’s important to clarify that these injuries were not a product of a direct clash,” the statement added, without elaboration.
NBC, quoting three sources with knowledge of the operation, reported that an operation by Mexican Marines was mounted after U.S. drug agents intercepted cell phone signals suggesting he was hiding at a ranch near Cosala in the Sierra Madre mountains.
NBC’s Mark Potter reported that Marines raided Guzman’s ranch hideout in helicopters, but were driven back by Guzman’s security forces. The Marines later entered the camp on foot, NBC News reported, and found cell phones, medication and two-way radios. Guzman and his accomplices apparently fled on ATVs.
On Thursday, Sinaloa Governor Mario López Valdez and military commander Gen. Alfonso Duarte Mujica confirmed that Guzman was the object of a major military operation that began last week, Mexico News Daily reports.
Guzman, who had already escaped from one maximum security prison in 2001, fled most recently on July 11 from another prison near Mexico City by escaping through an elaborate tunnel that ended beneath a shower stall in his cell.
Although authorities initially released surveillance camera video showing Guzman stepping behind a shower stall partition, blocked from view, in making his escape, it did not include any audio.
A leaked video recently aired by the broadcaster Televisa does include audio, notably loud noises at the time of the escape, but no reaction from guards, according to The newspaper Mexico News Daily reports.
For almost two hours before his escape, the video shows Guzman on his bed watching a video on a computer tablet with the volume cranked up, the newspaper reports.
At 8:46 a drill can be heard for almost six minutes over the sound from the tablet. At that point, he gets up and walks over to the shower area. “Boss?” comes a voice from the tunnel and Guzmán replies, “I’ll help you.”
He then bends over the in the shower area, which is blocked from the camera’s view, and apparently helps remove a piece of the concrete floor. Within a few moments he is gone.
Officials watching surveillance monitors appear not to notice until 9:17 p.m. that he is missing and send two guards to check.
“Commandant, there’s a hole in the shower,” one calls out.
“How big?” is the response.
“Big, commandant, big.”
“But the prisoner isn’t there?”
“No, commandant, he isn’t.”
At 9:29 p.m., three guards enter Guzman’s cell but it is not until three hours later that a Code Red emergency is declared.
The newspaper also notes that loud noises had been heard in the Altiplano prison for as a long as a week before the escape, but that some prisoners in that part of the penitentiary kept quiet because they had been threatened by prison officials.
Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez said at a Mexican Senate hearing this week that 24 people, all but one a government employee, had been arrested in connection with Guzman’s escape. Those arrested include a pilot, she said, without elaborating.
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