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Guatemala probes Mexico kingpin's 'death'

22 February 2013, 11:57

Guatemala City - Guatemalan authorities are investigating whether Mexican drug cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was killed in an armed clash near the border with Mexico on Thursday.

"The first information we have is that it could be him," Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez told local radio, without giving details about who was involved in the clash in Peten department, which borders Mexico.

But he cautioned that authorities could not be "100 percent" certain and were examining photographs to determine whether Mexico's most wanted man was indeed killed.

The information was being cross-checked with Mexican authorities.

After a homage to the military in the Mexican senate, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said he had no information yet to confirm whether Guzman was killed and that he was "hoping to get some information" soon.

Unconfirmed information

Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told reporters that the government was in contact with Guatemalan officials but that there was no information yet to confirm whether Guzman had died.

Mexican military sources told AFP that officials headed to Guatemala to try to identify the dead.

Local reports say the clash may have taken place in the border town of El Naranjo.

The state-run news agency, Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, said security forces preliminarily reported the death of two people and the discovery of vehicles and weapons in the hamlet of San Valentin.

But Defence Minister Ulises Anzueto said earlier that he had no information confirming a clash between soldiers and drug traffickers and that he lacked evidence to corroborate that Guzman was in Peten.

Public enemy no. 1

The Sinaloa drug cartel leader has been in hiding since escaping from a Mexican maximum security prison in 2001. He had been captured in Guatemala in 1993.

He is the most wanted man in Mexico, and the United States has offered a $5m reward for information leading to his arrest.

Chicago named him last week the city's Public Enemy No. 1, the first criminal to receive the moniker since American gangster Al Capone.

The rumours of Guzman's death came after a visit to Guatemala by the new head of US Southern Command, General John Kelly, to discuss the fight against drug trafficking with President Otto Perez.

In a recent interview with AFP, Perez said Mexican cartels have extended their operations into Guatemala, notably the Sinaloa cartel and its main rival, the paramilitary-like Zetas cartel. The Gulf cartel also operates here.

The drug war has left more than 70 000 people dead in Mexico since 2006 as warring cartels battle each other and security forces.



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