Authorities in Mexico on Friday released more details about the violent takedown of the son of notorious Mexican drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán.
In a blow-by-blow description of the battles that killed 10 military personnel and 19 suspected members of the Sinaloa drug cartel on Thursday as authorities arrested Ovidio Guzmán, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said that cartel gunmen opened fire on troops with .50-caliber machine guns.
The army then sent Blackhawk helicopters into the melee that attacked a convoy of 25 cartel vehicles, some of which had gun platforms that were firing on the helicopters.
The cartel then opened fire on the military aircraft, forcing two of them down with “a significant number of impacts” in each of the two aircraft, Sandoval said.
The gang then sent hordes of gunmen to attack fixed-wing aircraft, both military and civilian, at the city’s international airport.
One civilian airliner was hit. The gunmen also shot up airport buildings in a bid to prevent authorities from flying the captured cartel boss out of the city. However, Sandoval said, authorities anticipating the resistance had loaded Guzmán onto a military helicopter to fly him back to Mexico City.
The running shootouts killed one Culiacan policeman and wounded 17 police officers and 35 military personnel.
The violence became so heavy that Sinaloa Gov. Ruben Rocha said cartel members showed up at local hospitals attempting to kidnap doctors to take them back to the front lines and treat wounded fighters.
“It got to the point that at one moment, the doctors were saying, ‘We’re getting out of here,'” recalled Rocha, saying that police had reinforced security and convinced the doctors to stay.
Guzmán was a leader of a Sinaloa faction he called “Los Menores” or “the juniors,” who are also known as “Los Chapitos,” for the sons of El Chapo. The elder Guzmán is currently serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison after being convicted on drug trafficking and organized crime charges.
Ovidio Guzmán, nicknamed “the Mouse,” had not been one of El Chapo’s better-known sons until an aborted operation to capture him three years ago. That attempt similarly set off violence in Culiacan that ultimately led President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to order the military to let him go.
Guzmán was indicted by the U.S. on drug trafficking charges in 2018. According to both governments, he had assumed a growing role among his brothers in carrying on their father’s business, along with longtime cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
The six-month interagency investigation into Guzman concluded just days before President Biden is set to visit Mexico for the North American Leaders’ Summit, which will include meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Lopez Obrador.