The world’s most wanted drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, has been captured by Mexican marines and hauled away in handcuffs, ending a blood-stained reign and a 13-year manhunt.
His ability to sneak tonnes of cocaine, heroin and marijuana into the United States made him “Public Enemy Number One” in Chicago, joining American gangster Al Capone as the only criminal to ever get the moniker.
The result of US-Mexican co-ordination, the arrest deals a blow to the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s biggest drug-trafficking organisation, an empire that stretches along the Pacific coast and smuggles drugs to the United States, Europe and Asia.
Guzman was captured early Saturday morning in the Pacific beach city of Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, along with an unidentified associate “without a single shot fired”, Attorney-General Jesus Murillo Karam said.
“There was no damage and nobody was hurt,” Karam said in a brief news conference in a Mexico City navy base where Guzman was later paraded in front of television cameras.
The 56-year-old Sinaloa cartel kingpin wore a white shirt and jeans and sported thick black hair and a moustache.
He was flanked by two masked marines who held him by the arms and neck before hauling him inside a federal police helicopter, on his way to prison.
The United States – which hailed Guzman’s downfall as “a landmark achievement” – had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Guzman, who is accused of being behind much of the drug violence that has plagued Mexico for years.
Murillo Karam said the arrest was the result of months of work in co-ordination with US law enforcement agencies, which led to 13 arrests and the seizure of more than 100 weapons.
A US security official said Mexican forces swooped on Guzman in a hotel after acting on intelligence from the US Drug Enforce Administration and Homeland Security Department.
In recent weeks, Guzman was believed to have been hiding in a house in Culiacan, Sinaloa’s largest city, but had fled as authorities hunted for him. The house had extra-thick walls and escape tunnels, the official said.
Guzman, whose nickname “Shorty” is a reference to his height, amassed an immense fortune while authorities carried out their exhaustive international manhunt to capture him.
His turf wars with the Juarez and Zetas cartels fuelled a wave of relentless violence that has left almost 80,000 people dead in the past seven years.
He became a legendary drug lord after escaping from a maximum-security prison in a laundry cart in January 2001. He had been captured in Guatemala eight years earlier.