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Video: Travelers take cover during Mexican cartel gun battle

Linked ammunition for a GAU-2 7.62 mm minigun. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña)
January 11, 2023

Airline passengers on a runway in Culiacán were forced to take cover during a gun battle on Thursday, after Mexican authorities arrested the son of cartel drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

A video taken on Thursday showed the passengers of an Aeromexico flight hiding in the aisle of an airplane as it taxied along a runway. According to Los Noticieristas, which shared the video on Twitter, the aircraft was hit by at least one bullet and the active gunfire prevented the aircraft from being able to take off.

Witness David Tellez described the incident in an interview with Reuters.

“As we were accelerating for take-off, we heard gunshots very close to the plane, and that’s when we all threw ourselves to the floor,” Tellez said.

Tellez was travelling that day with his wife and three children, aged 7, 4 and 1. 

Mexican authorities arrested El Chapo’s son, Ovidio Guzmán, in a predawn raid on Thursday. Even before Mexican authorities officially announced Guzmán’s capture, cartel members were out in force throughout the city, setting up roadblocks, burning vehicles and getting into gun battles with Mexican authorities.

Tellez said he and his family had encountered some of the roadblocks on their way to the airport on Thursday. Although Mexican authorities had not yet announced Guzmán’s arrest, Tellez said security guards at the airport were urging people to enter through the airport quickly.

Tellez even told Reuters that he and his family hid in a bathroom after hearing that cartel members were inside the airport. That rumor turned out to be false.

Mexican military vehicles and aircraft arrived at the airport shortly before the gunfire erupted. It was not immediately clear who was shooting at whom and who shot the airliner.

After the gunfire, a flight attendant informed passengers that an engine had been hit, causing a leak. The flight crew directed the passengers to disembark and return back to the airport.

The heavily-armed cartel response after Guzmán’s arrest is similar to how cartel forces responded when Guzmán was arrested more than three years earlier. 

In October of 2019, Mexican authorities captured Guzmán in a similar operation in Culiacán, but their success was short-lived. Mexican authorities quickly found themselves outgunned by the cartel forces and elected to let Guzmán to avoid further violence.