Photos show the chaos and aftermath of a Mexican battle over drug lord 'El Chapo's' son

Rashide Frias / AFP / GettyMexican police patrol in a street of Culiacán, state of Sinaloa, Mexico, on October 17, 2019, after heavily armed gunmen in four-by-four trucks fought an intense battle with Mexican security forces.
  • On Thursday, Mexican forces briefly apprehended drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s son Ovidio Guzman in Culiacán. He’s wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges.
  • But Mexican security forces were quickly overwhelmed by cartel soldiers, who attacked with heavy weapons and set up road blockades, using burning vehicles.
  • To prevent more casualties, Guzman was returned to the cartel soldiers. But in doing so, the government conveyed a message that it was no longer in control, one expert said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Mexican city of Culiacán descended into chaos on Thursday, after security forces briefly captured drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s son Ovidio Guzman.

After apprehending him, the Mexican armed forces were quickly overwhelmed by a larger number of cartel gunman, who attacked with machine guns, snipers, and impeded the security forces by using burning vehicles to block roads.

To prevent any further casualties, they released Guzman.

The heavy gunfight took place in broad daylight. The skies over Culiacán filled with black smoke. It was described as a war zone.

Here’s what it was like.


On Thursday, a Mexican security force of about 30 was patrolling Culiacán, a known stronghold for one of Guzman’s cartel syndicates, 770 miles northwest of Mexico City, when they were shot at from a house.

Rashide Frias / AFP / GettyMexican police patrol in a street of Culiacan, state of Sinaloa, Mexico, on October 17, 2019, after heavily armed gunmen in four-by-four trucks fought an intense battle with Mexican security forces.

Sources: AP, Reuters, Fox News


Security fought back and entered the house. Inside, they apprehended Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s son, 28-year-old Ovidio Guzman, along with three others. Although he’s not the most well-known son, the younger Guzman is wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges.

ReutersJoaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman is escorted by soldiers during a presentation at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico January 8, 2016.

Sources: AP, Fox News


Things escalated from there. The house was surrounded by cartel soldiers, who out-numbered the Mexican security forces.

Rashide Frias / AFP / GettyView of bullet ridden and crashed vehicles in a street of Culiacan, state of Sinaloa, Mexico, on October 17, 2019, after heavily armed gunmen in four-by-four trucks fought an intense battle with Mexican security forces.

Source: AP


Local media reported that the cartel were using what appeared to be sniper rifles and machine guns.

Jesus Bustamante / ReutersCartel gunmen are seen outside during clashes with federal forces following the detention of Ovidio Guzman, son of drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, Mexico October 17, 2019.

Source: AP


Heavy gunfire came from both sides, and went on for hours.

Rashide Frias / AFP / GettyView of the bullet ridden window of a vehicle in a street of Culiacan, state of Sinaloa, Mexico, on October 17, 2019

Source: Fox News


The streets of the Mexican city quickly resembled a war zone. During the chaotic afternoon and evening, prisoners managed to escape from the local prison. Video showed at least 20 prisoners making a run for it, according to Reuters.

STR / AFP / GettyVehicles burn in a street of Culiacan, state of Sinaloa, Mexico, on October 17, 2019.

Sources: Fox News, Reuters


The cartel soldiers also set up blockades.

Augusto Zurita / APUnidentified gunmen block a street in Culiacan, Mexico, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019.

And set cars and buses alight. It’s a common tactic to make it harder for the security forces to manoeuvre during skirmishes.

Jesus Bustamante / ReutersA burning bus, set alight by cartel gunmen to block a road, is pictured during clashes with federal forces following the detention of Ovidio Guzman, son of drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, Mexico October 17, 2019.

Source: Fox News


Black smoke covered Culiacán’s skies.

Hector Parra / APSmoke from burning cars rises due in Culiacan, Mexico, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019.

Residents ran for cover, as shots were heard through the streets, and fighting continued on into the night. People on social media shared videos of parents stopping their cars on the street and telling their children to stay down close to the ground.

Augusto Zurita / APPeople take cover during a shoutout in Culiacan, Mexico, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019.

Sources: Reuters, Fox News, Twitter


Reuters reported that so far, two people had been confirmed dead, and 21 injured, according to Cristobal Castaneda, head of security in Sinaloa.

Rashide Frias / AFP / GettyAmmunition shells lay on a pool of blood in a street of Culiacan, capital of jailed kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa, on October 17, 2019.

Source: Reuters


The Mexican security forces were forced to hand Guzman back to the cartel soldiers. Security Minister Alfonso Duranzo told Reuters that they had done so to save people’s lives.

Henry Romero / ReutersAlfonso Durazo security minister.

Source: Reuters


Violence has plagued Sinaloa this year. Earlier this week, more than a dozen police were killed in a massacre in Western Mexico, and a day later the army retaliated killing 14 suspected criminals.

Rashide Frias / AFP / GettyA bullet ridden vehicle remains in a street of Culiacan, state of Sinaloa, Mexico, on October 17, 2019.

Source: Reuters


And Falko Ernst, a senior analyst for International Crisis Group in Mexico, said releasing Guzman set a “dangerous precedent” and sent a message that the government wasn’t in control.

Hector Parra / APA car’s rearview window is pierced with bullet holes amid a gunfight in Culiacan, Mexico, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019.

Source: Reuters

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