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Drug lord 'escaped through tunnel'

Published 12/07/2015

This is the second time Joaquin
This is the second time Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has escaped from jail (AP)

Mexico's top drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escaped through an elaborate tunnel in his cell, a security official said.

Security Commission Monte Alejandro Rubido said the tunnel was nearly 5,000ft long and had ventilation and stairs.

Officials also found a motorcycle that was used to remove dirt, Mr Rubido said.

The escape late on Saturday was Guzman's second from a maximum security prison in Mexico.

Eighteen employees from various part of the Altiplano prison 55 miles west of Mexico City have been taken in for questioning, Mr Rubido said in a news conference.

A manhunt began immediately late on Saturday for the head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.

Roads were being heavily patrolled by Federal Police with numerous checkpoints and a Blackhawk helicopter was seen flying overhead. Flights were also suspended at Toluca airport near the penitentiary in the State of Mexico, and civil aviation hangars were being searched.

Guzman was last seen about 9pm on Saturday in the shower area of his cell, according to a statement from the National Security Commission. After a time, he was lost by the prison's security camera surveillance network. Upon checking his cell, authorities found it empty and a 20-by-20-inch (50-by-50 centimeter) hole near the shower.

Guzman's escape is a major embarrassment to the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, which had received plaudits for its aggressive approach to top drug lords. Since the government took office in late 2012, Mexican authorities have captured or killed six of them, including Guzman.

Guzman faces multiple federal drug trafficking indictments in the US as well as Mexico, and was on the US Drug Enforcement Administration's most-wanted list.

After Guzman was arrested on February 22 2014, the US said it would file an extradition request, though it is not clear if that happened.

The Mexican government at the time vehemently denied the need to extradite Guzman, even as many expressed fears he would escape as he did in 2001 while serving a 20-year sentence in the country's other top-security prison, Puente Grande, in the western state of Jalisco.

Former Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said earlier this year that the US would get Guzman in "about 300 or 400 years" after he served time for all his crimes in Mexico. Mr Murillo Karam said sending Guzman to the United States would save Mexico a lot of money, but keeping him was a question of national sovereignty.

He dismissed concerns that Guzman could escape a second time. That risk "does not exist," Mr Murillo Karam said.

Guzman was first caught by authorities in Guatemala in 1993, extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison on drug-trafficking-related charges. Many accounts say he escaped in a laundry cart, although there have been several versions of the tale of how he got away.

Guzman was finally re-captured in February 2014 after eluding authorities for days across his home state of Sinaloa, for which the cartel is named. He was listed as 56 years old last year, though there are discrepancies in his birth date.

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