10 soldiers were among those killed in the arrest of the drug lord’s son, which was sparked by violence by gangs, the government said.
At least 29 people, including 10 soldiers, were killed an operation to arrest son of jailed Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Mexican government said after a gun battle with gang members.
Ovidio Guzman, nicknamed “El Raton,” or “The Rat,” was arrested early Thursday morning in the northern state of Sinaloa and flown to Mexico City on a military plane.
Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval told reporters on Friday: “Ten members of the military…unfortunately died in the line of duty,” adding 19 more “lawbreakers.” also died in the campaign. Another 35 soldiers were wounded by bullets.
Members of the Sinaloa Cartel and their associates went on a rampage after Ovidio Guzman’s arrest, resisting security forces, burning vehicles and blocking roads across the Pacific coastal nation .
Violence is concentrated in and around Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, home to a powerful drug cartel led by “El Chapo”. 2016 arrest and extradition to the United States in 2017.
Sandoval said at a news conference that another 21 people had been arrested during Thursday’s operations, adding that there had been no reports of civilian deaths.
The government says the arrest of Ovidio Guzman, 32, comes after six months of intelligence operations to track him down, and that he is currently being held in a maximum-security federal prison.
Sandoval said a passenger plane was about to take off from Culiacan airport and two air force planes were hit when members of the Sinaloa Cartel launched an attack to rescue Ovidio Guzman.
Sandoval said the air force planes “had to make an emergency landing” after receiving “some significant impact”. No one was injured.
Reporting from Mexico City, Al Jazeera’s John Holman said the situation in Culiacan appeared to have calmed on Friday as traffic returned to the streets.
When asked if the arrest of young Guzman would curb drug cartel activity, Holman said past arrests of leaders had shown that “the strategy of getting rid of the bosses and hopefully that means the whole structure collapses have proven inefficient. “
“What happened on various occasions was it just kept going or organizations split into different groups,” Holman said.
“El Chapo”, which means “Dwarf”, is sentenced to life in prison in the US for smuggling hundreds of tons of drugs into the country over the course of 25 years.
However, his gang remains one of the most powerful in Mexico, accused of exploitation by Washington opioid epidemic by flooding communities with fentanyl, a synthetic drug about 50 times more potent than heroin.
According to the US State Department, Ovidio Guzman and one of his brothers are charged with overseeing nearly a dozen methamphetamine labs in Sinaloa as well as conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana.
He also allegedly ordered the killing of informants, a drug dealer and a Mexican singer who refused to perform at his wedding, speaking department.
Ovidio Guzman was arrested just days before US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico City for two days of talks.
While Mexican officials have tried to downplay the length of the campaign, Al Jazeera’s Holman said many observers are skeptical. “Every time one of these big meetings takes place, the Mexican government is usually trying to win some kind of big win – in terms of drug arrest or trying to arrest some kind of boss,” he said.