Seven Mexican security forces members were killed in a wave of violence sparked by the arrest of the son of notorious drug lord “El Chapo”.
Furious gang members in the northern Sinaloa state fought gun battles with police, set up road blocks with burning vehicles and attacked an airport, forcing its closure after two planes were damaged in gunfire.
It came after Ovidio Guzman, 32, nicknamed “The Mouse” and alleged to be a leader of his father’s former cartel, was captured in a morning raid yesterday in the city of Culiacán. He is wanted by the US on drug trafficking charges.
The six-month surveillance operation to capture Mr Guzmán had the support of US officials.The US has previously offered a £4.1m reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Ovidio, describing him as a “high-ranking” member of the cartel.
State governor Ruben Rocha said seven members of the security forces had been killed, including a colonel, and 21 had been injured as well as eight civilians in the violence.
He said there had been 12 clashes with the security forces, 25 acts of looting, and 250 vehicles had been set on fire. More than 100 flights were cancelled at three Sinaloa airports.
Three years ago, an attempt to arrest Ovidio ended in humiliation for the government when President Andrew Manuel Lopez Obrador ordered the military to let him go after gunmen shot up the city with high-powered weapons.
His father, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, is serving a life sentence in the US after being found guilty in 2019 of drug trafficking and money laundering.
Local government urged people to stay indoors and said schools and administrative offices were closed due to the violence on Thursday.
"We ask the citizens of Culiacan not to leave home due to the blockades that have occurred in different parts of the city," Juan de Dios Gamez, Culiacan Mayor, wrote on Twitter.
The Sinaloa cartel is one of the world’s most powerful narcotics trafficking organisations.
Mike Vigil, the DEA's former Chief of International Operations, said: “This is a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel and major victory for the rule of law. It will not, however, impede the flow of drugs into the U.S. Hopefully, Mexico will extradite him to the US.”
It comes just days before Mexico’s President López Obrador will host US President Joe Biden for bilateral talks followed by their North American Leaders' Summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The visit will be the first made by Mr Biden to the US-Mexico border since becoming President in January 2021.
Drug trafficking, along with immigration, is expected to be a top talking point.