Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped from a maximum security prison through a 1,5 kilometre tunnel, in his second jail break in 14 years, the government said.
The country’s top security official said yesterday that the tunnel opened into the shower area of his cell in Altiplano prison in central Mexico.
With the elaborate escape, the head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel has done what Mexican authorities promised would not happen after his recapture last year — slip out of a maximum security prison again.
Eighteen employees from various parts of the Altiplano prison have been taken in for questioning, the security commissioner, Monte Alejandro Rubido, said in a news conference.
The National Security Commission said Guzman was last seen in the shower area of his cell late on Saturday before he disappeared.
The commission also said a search operation was being launched in the surrounding area and that flights had been suspended at Toluca airport near the penitentiary outside Mexico City.
Guzman had been in prison since February 2014.
In more than a decade on the run, he transformed himself from a middling Mexican capo into arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.
His cartel has been heavily involved in the violent drug war that has torn through parts of Mexico for the last several years.
At one point, his fortune grew to more than $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which listed him among the “World’s Most Powerful People” and ranked him above the presidents of France and Venezuela.
In 2013, the financial magazine took Guzman off the list, saying it was likely security expenses had cut into his trove.
His Sinaloa Cartel took over much of the lucrative trafficking routes along the US border, including cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.
Guzman’s play for power against local cartels caused a bloodbath in Tijuana and made Juarez one of the deadliest cities in the world. — Al Jazeera and Agencies.