(Updated with details of El Chapo’s capture)
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has announced via Twitter that drug lord fugitive Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has been recaptured after six months on the run.
The crime boss was reportedly captured following a raid on a home in the city of Los Mochis, in El Chapo’s home state of Sinaloa, according to the Mexican Marines. Authorities said they responded to an anonymous tip notifying them that armed men were inside the home. When Marines approached the home they were reportedly attacked with gunfire from inside the house, and returned fire, according to the Navy’s official version of events.
The shootout left five suspects killed and one Marine injured. Six people were arrested, according to the release. The Marines also confiscated four vehicles, including two armored cars, and a cache of weapons, including a rocket-launcher.
It’s not clear from the release whether El Chapo was arrested in that raid, or whether someone netted in the raid then led authorities to El Chapo’s hideout.
Mexican media reports the drug lord was nabbed in a local hotel and is now being transported to Mexico City by airplane.
A source tells Fusion that the Minister of the Interior reported El Chapo’s arrest to ambassadors and diplomats during an event Friday afternoon in Mexico City. Upon hearing the news, the event attendees reportedly stood up and sang the Mexican national anthem.
“Mission accomplished: we have him. I want to inform Mexicans that Joaquín Guzmán Loera has been detained.”
Rumors have been circulating for months that Mexican authorities were closing in on the fugitive kingpin, who tunneled out a maximum-security prison last July. Recently, Mexico’s armed forces appeared to be closing in with military operations in villages near the rugged mountain range of Sinaloa.
According to an NBC News report, “Mexican Marines zeroed in on the Sinaloa cartel kingpin after U.S. drug agents intercepted cell phone signals suggesting ‘El Chapo’ was hiding at a ranch near Cosala in the rugged Sierra Madre mountains in western Mexico.”
Chapo’s capture comes months after several suspects were collared in connection to the drug lord’s escape from the Altiplano prison last July.
The fugitive drug lord allegedly traveled by land to the north-central state of Queretaro after escaping prison. Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez said the pilot who flew Chapo out of Queretaro was arrested. She also confirmed the arrest of Chapo’s brother-in-law.
Many speculated Chapo had returned to his home turf in Sinaloa after escaping Mexico’s most secure prison using a 1-mile tunnel connecting a hatch in his cell’s shower to an outside warehouse. “In situations like this, people tend to be creatures of habit,” Jack Riley, the deputy administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration told The Washington Post.
Search efforts were mainly launched inside Mexico’s so-called “Golden Triangle,” a hotbed for marijuana cultivation tucked into the northern states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua. The country’s Triangulo Dorado is believed to be a stronghold for the Sinaloa Cartel.
But even as the search narrowed, the cartel boss managed to elude all previous capture attempts. He even suffered injuries to his face and one of his legs after brazenly escaping authorities several months ago, according to Mexico’s National Security Commission.
El Chapo’s arrest comes as a sigh of relief for embattled President Enrique Peña Nieto. Chapo’s second prison break was seen by many as a huge embarrassment, laying bare the country’s endemic corruption and weak rule of law.
Update January 11, 2016: the article cites various Mexican media reports that at the time indicated the drug lord was nabbed at a local hotel. According to the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, Chapo was in fact captured at a highway and then taken to a local motel.