At least 29 people are dead after cartel hitmen fought back following the arrest of one of Mexico's most notorious drug kingpins.
Ovidio Guzman, the son of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, was apprehended in the state of Sinaloa on Thursday (January 5).
But the arrest has turned the city of Culiacan, in the north of Mexico, into a violent warzone where cartel members have opened fire on army personnel, grounded planes, and blockaded roads, Associated Press reported.
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In the battles that have ensued since Guzman's arrest, 10 army personnel and 19 suspected members of the Sinaloa drug cartel have been killed, authorities revealed on Friday.
A convoy of 25 cartel vehicles also paraded through the streets, with the army calling in Blackhawk helicopter gunships in response.
But the cartel opened fire on the helicopters, grounding two of them with "a significant number of impacts" according to Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval.
A swathe of cartel gunmen then attacked airports – both military and commercial – at Culiacan's airport, with one civilian airliner hit.
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Passengers reportedly heard gunshots in the distance as the plane was preparing to take off, but the sound became increasingly loud and intense, prompting passengers to throw themselves onto the floor out of fear for their own safety.
No one was injured in the attack but the plane was quickly returned to the terminal.
Airport buildings were also attacked in the raid in a futile bid to prevent authorities from flying Guzman – also known as El Raton or The Mouse – out of the city.
Fortunately, Sandoval said, authorities had expected backlash following the arrest and had already got Ovidio Guzman onto a helicopter to ship him away to Mexico City.
The shootouts have so far killed one police officer and wounded 17 police officers and 35 military personnel.
The violence got so bad that Sinaloa Governor Ruben Rocha said cartel gunmen showed up at hospitals in the area and tried to abduct doctors to treat wounded fighters.
Ismael Bojorquez, director of local news outlet Riodoce, which reports on the area's drug trafficking, said the outburst had been encouraged thanks to the president's less aggressive stance towards organised crime.
"They (cartels) have taken advantage of these four years to organise themselves, arm themselves, strengthen their structures, their finances," he said.
"I believe there are more weapons than three years ago.
"All of organised crime's armies have strengthened, not just the Chapitos, and this is the price that society is paying for this strategy of the federal government."
This is not the first time Guzman has been arrested – the 32-year-old was indicted by the United States for drug trafficking back in 2018 and he was arrested by members of the National Guard in 2019.
However, he was freed just hours after his initial arrest and one of the officers who arrested him was reportedly assassinated a month later.
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