The world’s most-wanted escapee drug-trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman narrowly avoided getting captured in an operation in the mountains of northwestern Mexico during which he suffered face and leg injuries, the Mexican government announced in a statement on Friday.
It was not clarified where or when exactly the operation took place, but the area is where the states of Sinaloa and Durango are located, places known as drug-producing regions that are considered Guzman’s turf.
"It's important to clarify that these injuries were not a product of a direct clash," the statement said.
Guzman, head of the notorious Sinaloa cartel, escaped from a maximum security prison not far from Mexico City in July through a specially dug tunnel about 1.5 km long. This was his second escape after his first one from another high-security prison in 2001.
On Saturday, a mayor in the north-western region said hundreds of people were in fear due to the operation and were forced to leave their homes in mountain communities.
"Some told us that they had been walking up to six days from parts of the mountain zones," he said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. “They came very afraid.”
Mexico has issued arrest warrants for 23 former prison staff for helping Guzman in his escape, as 10 civilians are being held under a form of house arrest. Also, recently, authorities captured a pilot who helped Guzman after his escape. A federal official on Saturday said the pilot was the one who flew him in a small plane to the Sinaloan mountains.
Guzman heads an organized crime syndicate called the Sinaloa Cartel and is considered the most powerful drug-trafficker in the world. His gang smuggles drugs worth billions of dollars into the United States and is also responsible for a countless number of deaths.
A variety of US officials had requested Guzman's transfer to the US since his last arrest in February 2014.
Under the Mexican law, a convict can only be handed over to another country if they have served their time in Mexico. But it is up to the president whether a suspect should get extradited before facing domestic justice.