MEXICO CITY – An extended gun battle with high-caliber weapons raged Thursday in the streets of the capital of Mexico’s Sinaloa state with entrances to the city blocked by burning vehicles and authorities reporting an escape from a local prison.
Heavily armed civilians in trucks were shooting what appeared to be .50-caliber sniper rifles and truck-mounted machine guns in downtown Culiacan, according to Culiacan-based news outlet Riodoce.
Riodoce reported there was a heavy deployment of Mexican security forces and that gunmen had blocked entrances to the city with burning vehicles.
Sinaloa public safety director Cristóbal Castañeda told Milenio television the army started an operation Thursday afternoon and soon afterward government surveillance cameras alerted authorities that gunmen in vehicles were circulating in downtown Culiacan.
Castañeda did not state what the military’s objective was with the operation, but said that gunmen blocked a number of city streets with burning vehicles, a common tactic to make it difficult for security forces to maneuver.
According to media reports Ovidio Guzman has been arrested by Mexico Federal Police. Ovidio Guzman is reportedly influential in running the Sinaloa Cartel since his father’s arrest and conviction.
Simultaneously, some 20 to 30 prisoners escaped though some were quickly recaptured, he said.
State officials asked residents to avoid going out in parts of city.
Sinaloa’s soccer club Dorados announced that it had cancelled its game Thursday due to security concerns.
Sinaloa is home to the cartel by the same name, which was led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison in the United States in July.
After Guzmán’s third arrest in 2016, an internal battle for succession began playing out. The battle was resolved with the arrest of Damaso López Nunez and his son Dámaso López Serrano, who led a rival faction.
The cartel is currently led by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada along with Guzman’s sons, Iván Archivaldo Guzmán and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán, known “los Chapitos,” or “the little Chapos.”
Two other sons of “Chapo” Guzman are also on the radar of U.S. authorities: Ovidio Guzmán López and Joaquín Guzmán López, who are accused of distributing cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
Representatives of Mexico’s security forces did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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