Latin America & Caribbean

US to seek 'Shorty' Guzman's extradition from Mexico

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Media captionGuzman used a network of underground tunnels to evade capture

Judicial authorities in the United States say they will seek the extradition of the world's top drug baron, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.

Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa drugs cartel, was arrested in Mexico on Saturday after 13 years on the run.

He was detained in the beach resort of Mazatlan without a shot being fired.

He is wanted in the US on charges of smuggling vast amounts of drugs into the country, but Mexican authorities are also likely to want to charge him.

'Best course'

A spokesman for the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York said prosecutors there "planned to seek his extradition".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Guzman was arrested in a beachfront apartment in Mazatlan, Mexico
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Following his arrest, marines took Guzman to a navy base in the capital, Mexico City
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Guzman was later taken by helicopter to a high-security jail in the state of Mexico
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Security has been stepped up at the Altiplano prison since the arrival of "Shorty" Guzman

But an official in the Mexican attorney general's office said Guzman would first have to serve the remainder of his jail sentence before being extradited.

In 2001, Guzman escaped from a high-security jail in Mexico hidden in a laundry basket. He was eight years into his 20-year sentence.

Chairman of the US House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul said extraditing Guzman to the United States would prevent another escape.

"I think that would be the best course not only for Mexico, but also the United States, in ensuring that what happened in 2001 does not happen again," he told ABC television.

Guzman is also likely to face fresh charges in Mexico, including drug trafficking, involvement in organised crime and possession of weapons restricted to the military.

Criminal mastermind

Guzman's Sinaloa cartel is believed to be one of the biggest criminal organisations in the world, trafficking drugs into more than 50 countries worldwide.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Marines said they immediately recognised Guzman, who had not been seen since his escape in 2001

Forbes magazine has estimated Guzman's fortune at about $1bn (£0.6bn).

His capture has been hailed as a major victory for the government of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

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Media captionJoaquin Guzman had been on the run for 13 years

Guzman was arrested by Mexican marines working with US law enforcement officials in the early hours of Saturday.

He was detained in a four-storey condominium in Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, where he was hiding with a bodyguard and, according to some sources, with a woman believed to be his wife.

Guzman had a military-style assault rifle on him but no shots were fired.

Key communications

Saturday's operation was the culmination of a 13-year manhunt for Guzman, who had been rumoured to be hiding everywhere from Mexico's remote mountain region to Argentina.

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Image caption The arrest of Guzman has been welcomed as a victory in the war on drugs by the government

US law enforcement officials told the Associated Press news agency that their big break came when they tracked a mobile phone to one of Guzman's hideouts in the city of Culiacan, the capital of north-western Sinaloa state.

A day later, the authorities managed to capture one of Guzman's close associates, who - according to the officials - provided them with details of seven houses in Culiacan that Guzman was using to hide from the authorities.

All the houses were secured with steel-reinforced doors and had escape hatches hidden underneath the bathtubs leading to tunnels linked to the city's drainage system.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mexican marines found Guzman lying on the bed of this room in a beachside building in Mazatlan
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Guzman fled to the apartment in Mazatlan after marines closed in on his houses in Culiacan

It is through these tunnels that Guzman again evaded capture as Mexican marines were closing in on him, one of his detained associates revealed to investigators.

The associate, Manuel Lopez Ozorio, said he had picked up Guzman, his communications chief. and a woman from a drainage pipe and took them to the resort town of Mazatlan.

US law enforcement officials told AP that further wiretaps allowed them to pinpoint Guzman's location to the building on Mazatlan's beachfront where he was detained.

Mexican security forces continue to search for Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, Guzman's number two and the man tipped to to take over Guzman's operations.

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