(NEW YORK) — Ovidio Guzmán, a top leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the notorious drug lord currently serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison, has been arrested by authorities in Mexico, the country’s secretary of defense, Luis Cresencio Sandoval, announced Thursday afternoon.
Guzmán was captured by Mexican armed forces in an overnight raid in a small town just outside the city of Culiacán, the capital of the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
He was transported by military aircraft from Culiacán back to Mexico City late morning on Thursday. Officials said the operation had been in the works for more than six months.
The arrest was also confirmed to ABC News by a U.S. law enforcement official.
Ovidio Guzman has been charged since 2018 in Washington, D.C., with manufacturing or distributing for illegal importation into the United States substantial amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
A provisional warrant was issued for his arrest in 2019, according to Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary, Marcelo Ebrad.
“This is a request for provisional detention and then there is the extradition procedure,” Ebrad told reporters.
A U.S.-based attorney who has represented Guzman since 2019, Jeffrey Lichtman, declined to comment on the arrest.
Ebrad denied that U.S. agencies had participated or provided information that led to Guzmán’s arrest and also rumors that the arrest was a “gift” to President Joe Biden who is scheduled to visit Mexico next week.
“This operation was kept extremely confidential by the authorities in charge of doing so and there was no intermediation or political consultation. There is no link between the operation and the summit,” he told reporters.
Guzmán is allegedly a major trafficker of fentanyl and other drugs to the United States and has been helping to lead a now-fractured Sinaloa Cartel since his father’s extradition years ago.
Alleged cartel members have since besieged parts of the city, with burning vehicles set up as roadblocks in what appeared to be a failed attempt to impede authorities transporting Guzmán out of the city.
Mexico’s military reported numerous blockades across the city and said that armed men even attacked the city’s main airport.
An Aeromexico flight set to take off from Culiacán to Mexico City was struck by a stray bullet at the airport and did not take off as a result.
“This morning, a bullet impact was detected in the fuselage of an Embraer 190 plane that was ready to start flight AM165 on the Culiacan-Mexico City route, which was canceled for security reasons,” Aeromexico said in a statement. “The plane never started its takeoff run. After this accident, the company’s protocols were activated and the corresponding authorities were notified, with whom we will coordinate the investigations. Customers and collaborators are safe.”
Aeromexico later said it was temporarily suspending all operations at the airport.
This is not the first time the city has come under attack during a raid to capture Ovidio Guzmán.
In a now-infamous event in October 2019, nicknamed the Culiacanazo, authorities briefly detained Ovidio Guzmán at a home in Culiacán.
Word spread quickly, however, and heavily armed gunmen flooded the city, with massive shootouts taking place between cartel members and Mexican armed forces around the city.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordered Ovidio Guzmán released in order to avoid more bloodshed — a major embarrassment for the government and one that is routinely held up as a prime example of the power criminal organizations continue to wield in Mexico.
Ovidio Guzmán is wanted on federal charges in the United States and could face extradition to the U.S. pending legal proceedings.
His father, El Chapo, is serving a life sentence in the U.S. after being convicted in 2019 of conducting a continuing criminal enterprise, including large-scale narcotics violations and a murder conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracies, unlawful use of a firearm and a money laundering conspiracy.
ABC News’ Ivan Pereira and Kirit Radia contributed to this report.
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