Armed fighters surrounded security forces in the Mexican city of Culiacan on Thursday, forcing them to free one of the sons of drug lord Joaquín Guzmán, otherwise known as “El Chapo.”
The fight set off a gun battle and a prison break that resulted in two deaths and 21 injuries, Sinaloa public safety director Cristóbal Castañeda confirmed from preliminary information, Reuters reported.
The outlet confirmed that Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said a National Guard patrol came under attack from within a house in Culiacan, which is approximately 770 miles northwest of Mexico City.
Ovidio Guzmán, who is accused of drug trafficking in the U.S., was allegedly inside the house, but the National Guard patrol was withdrawn to protect their lives as the cartel forces reportedly outweighed them. There were approximately 40 members of the National Guard and army present, The Associated Press reported.
As the forces seized on the house, fighters also attacked police and soldiers in the city. They set vehicles and at least one gas station on fire, Reuters reported. They also fired machine guns and rifles as civilians cowered in shopping malls and supermarkets for cover.
“The decision was taken to retreat from the house, without Guzmán, to try to avoid more violence in the area and preserve the lives of our personnel and recover calm in the city,” Durazo told Reuters.
José Luis González Meza, an attorney for Joaquín Guzmán's family, confirmed to the AP that the family has said “Ovidio is alive and free” but that he had no more details about what had happened.
The chaos continued into the night, as 20 to 30 inmates reportedly also escaped from the city’s prison, according to The Associated Press. Castañeda confirmed some were recaptured, the AP reported.
Thursday’s deaths follow the killing of more than a dozen police officers in western Mexico earlier this week, as well as the killing of 14 suspected gang members by the Mexican military, Reuters reported.
Joaquín Guzmán in July was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison, bringing an end to a decades-long criminal career at the top of the narcotics trade.