Mexican president defends retreat in face of cartel gunmen

Ovidio Guzman Lopez's arrest sparked gun battles in Mexico on Thursday

Enlarge Image Ovidio Guzman Lopez's arrest sparked gun battles in Mexico on Thursday. EPA

Mexico's defence minister confirmed on Friday that authorities released a son of drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman after his arrest triggered an all-out gun battle on the streets of Culiacan, capital of their cartel's bastion, Sinaloa.

After hours of running gun battles in the city of Culiacan, the current whereabouts of one of Chapo's sons Ovid Guzman, who was captured by security forces but possibly released hours later, are unknown.

"This decision was made to protect citizens ..."

Members of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel exchanged heavy gun fire with security officials Thursday.

According to CNN affiliate ADN40, armored vehicles with military-grade machinery exchanged heavy artillery against federal troops in Culiacan, in the heart of Sinaloa.

Footage of Thursday's chaos on social media showed panicked residents fleeing and high caliber gunfire ringing out across town.

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State officials asked residents to avoid going out in parts of city. Black plumes of smoke rose across the skyline.

The patrol unit fought back and took control of the house, finding four occupants inside.

Lopez Obrador said security forces had swooped in to capture Ovidio Guzman after a judge issued a warrant for his arrest and extradition.

During the confrontation, other members of an organized criminal group arrived on scene, with more firepower than authorities.

With the "purpose of safeguarding the security and tranquility of the Culiacan society, the officials of the Cabinet of Security agreed to suspend said actions".

"El Chapo" Guzman led the Sinaloa cartel for decades, escaping from prison twice before being arrested and extradited to the United States.

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Ovidio "The Mouse" Guzman, 28, was initially detained by officers after being discovered in a safe house.

The U.S. Department of Justice unveiled an indictment against Ovidio and one of his brothers in February, charging them with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States.

Gladys McCormick, a security analyst at Syracuse University in the United States, said the latest news from Mexico read like that of a country in "the throes of war".

Accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is seen with a handgun on display during a testimony by Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Victor Vazquez (not shown) in this courtroom sketch in Brooklyn federal court in New York City on January 17, 2019.

In 2015 he dramatically escaped from prison, riding on a motorcycle through a tunnel that had been dug to his cell at the Altiplano maximum security federal prison.

The fighting provided the ruthless cartel - once the most powerful in Mexico - with an opportunity to show it isn't a spent force following the downfall of its leader.

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Jose Reveles, the author of several books on the Sinaloa cartel, said the operation was done clumsily from both an operational and a political standpoint.

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