MEXICO CITY – Fugitive drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was flown to a mountainous region of his home state of Sinaloa following his daring July 11 escape from prison through a mile-long tunnel, a federal official said Saturday.
Based on this information, the search for the world's most wanted drug lord has focused in recent weeks on a rugged area that stretches from Sinaloa into neighboring Durango state, part of Mexico's famed Golden Triangle drug-producing region that is considered Guzman's home turf, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
The official said that after his escape from the maximum-security prison where he was being held not far from Mexico City, Guzman was taken to the central state of Queretaro. From there, he was flown in a small plane to the Sinaloan mountains, the official said.
Several days ago, Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez told Congress that authorities had captured a pilot who aided Guzman after his escape. The federal official said Saturday that it was the pilot who flew the escaped drug lord in the small plane.
The official's comments came the day after the government said Guzman had avoided capture by Mexican marines in an operation in the mountains of northwestern Mexico.
A statement by Mexico's security Cabinet said officials think the legendary drug lord injured a leg and his face fleeing marines in the rugged terrain. It provided no details on when or exactly where the operation took place, but the area of mountains of Sinaloa and Durango is in northwest Mexico.
The statement cited information-sharing with international agencies for leading authorities to the area.
Guzman previously escaped from another maximum-security prison in 2001, and evaded capture for years in the rugged mountains of Sinaloa.
His most recent escaped strained relations with Washington, which had formally requested the drug kingpin's extradition just weeks earlier.
A variety of U.S. officials, including lawmakers and law enforcement officials, had called for Guzman's transfer to the U.S. since his arrest in February 2014. Mexican officials, however, said Guzman wouldn't be sent to the U.S. until he had served time for all of his crimes in Mexico.
Guzman escaped through a sophisticated tunnel that opened in the floor of his cell's shower. A surveillance video of Guzman's cell shows him walking to the shower — where there was a blind spot in the security camera's view — crouching down and then vanishing.
Mexico has issued arrest warrants for 23 former officials, guards or police officers for allegedly participating in his escape. In addition, 10 civilians are being held under a form of house arrest.
Guzman is considered the power behind the lucrative Sinaloa Cartel.