Mexico: 29 people dead in operation to arrest son of ‘El Chapo’

At least 29 people, including 10 soldiers, have been killed in an operation to arrest the son of jailed Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s government says after a shootout with cartel members.

Ovidio Guzman, nicknamed “El Raton”, or “The Mouse”, was rounded up early on Thursday in the northern state of Sinaloa and flown to Mexico City on a military plane.

“Ten members of the military … unfortunately lost their lives in the line of duty,” Defence Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval told reporters on Friday, adding 19 “lawbreakers” were also killed in the operation. Another 35 soldiers sustained gunshot wounds.

Members of the Sinaloa Cartel and their associates went on a rampage after Ovidio Guzman’s arrest, fighting security forces, setting vehicles on fire and blocking roads across the Pacific coastal state.

The violence was concentrated in and around Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, home of the powerful drug cartel, which “El Chapo” headed before his capture in 2016 and extradition to the United States in 2017.

Twenty-one other people were arrested during Thursday’s operations, Sandoval said during a news conference, adding there were no reports of any civilian deaths.

The arrest of Ovidio Guzman, 32, followed six months of intelligence work to track him down, the government said, and he is now being held at a maximum security federal prison.

Sandoval said a passenger plane that was just about to take off from Culiacan airport and two air force aircraft were hit as members of the Sinaloa Cartel launched the offensive to rescue Ovidio Guzman.

The air force planes “had to make an emergency landing” after receiving “a significant number of impacts”, Sandoval said. No one was injured.

An enhanced security presence will now remain in place in Sinaloa, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, to protect the public, with an additional 1,000 military personnel travelling to the region today, the minister added.

Reporting from Mexico City, Al Jazeera’s John Holman said the situation in Culiacan appeared to have calmed down on Friday with vehicles driving on the streets again.

Asked whether the younger Guzman’s arrest would rein in the work of the drug cartels, Holman said past arrests of leaders have shown that “the strategy of knocking out kingpins and hoping that that means the whole structure falls apart has been shown to just not work.”

“What’s happened on various different occasions is either it just carries on, or the organisations splinter into different groups,” Holman said.

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