Fourteen killed as ‘Narcos’ drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero captured in Mexico

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Rafael Caro Quintero  (via REUTERS)
Rafael Caro Quintero (via REUTERS)

Mexican military forces have captured notorious drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero who was previously jailed for the torture and murder of a US drug enforcement agent in 1985.

A bloodhound named Max flushed Caro Quintero, 69, out of hiding in shrubland near the town of San Simon in Sinaloa state during a joint operation by the navy and the attorney general’s office.

A Blackhawk helicopter carrying 15 people crashed near the coastal city of Los Mochis during the sting, killing 14 of those on board, according to a statement from the Mexican navy. The sole survivor is said to have been seriously injured.

Officials said the aircraft suffered was downed in a “accident” but the cause has not yet been determined.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said it crashed shortly before landing after supporting those captured Caro Quintero.

Footage of the arrest released by the navy shows Caro Quintero, his face blurred, dressed in jeans, a soaking wet blue shirt and a baggy khaki jacket. He was being held by men wearing camouflage uniforms and equipped with assault rifles.

Picture of Rafael Caro Quintero detained in Sinaloa state, Mexico (via REUTERS)
Picture of Rafael Caro Quintero detained in Sinaloa state, Mexico (via REUTERS)

Caro Quintero was one of the primary suppliers of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the US in the late 1970s and rose to prominence as a co-founder of the Guadalajara cartel, one of Latin America’s most powerful drug trafficking organisations during the 1980s.

He had walked free in 2013 after 28 years in prison on a technicality by a Mexican judge, who overturned his 40-year sentence for the 1985 kidnapping and killing of US Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.

However, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence - by which point Caro Quintero had already been whisked off in a waiting vehicle.

He went underground and is said to have returned to drug trafficking, unleashing bloody turf battles in the border state of Sonora.

His story was made into Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico, the spin-off series of the hit show based on the story of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, in 2018.

Emergency services work to retrieve dead from navy Blackhawk helicopter (AP)
Emergency services work to retrieve dead from navy Blackhawk helicopter (AP)

He was on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a $20million (£16.9m) reward offered for his capture.

The US government hailed the arrest, and said it would waste no time in requesting his extradition.

“This is huge,” White House senior Latin America adviser Juan Gonzalez wrote on Twitter.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement: “There is no hiding place for anyone who kidnaps, tortures, and murders American law enforcement.

“Today’s arrest is the culmination of tireless work by DEA and their Mexican partners to bring Caro Quintero to justice for his alleged crimes, including the torture and execution of DEA Special Agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena.

“We will be seeking his immediate extradition to the United States so he can be tried for these crimes in the very justice system Special Agent Camarena died defending.”

Mexico’s president has previously maintained he is not interested in detaining drug lords and prefers to avoid violence. However, the arrest comes just days after he met US President Joe Biden at the White House.

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