MEXICO’S government has been forced to deploy the military onto the streets to fight rampaging drug cartel members.
Drug cartel gunmen invaded Culiacan International Airport in the western Mexican province of Sinaloa and opened fire at army planes on Thursday in revenge for the arrest.
Shocking footage appears to show a cartel thug attempting to take down jets using a sniper rifle.
Parts of the city of Culiacan, a stronghold of the Sinaloa cartel, have been seized by gang members who have carjacked residents and torched vehicles.
Dramatic pictures show cars reduced to fireballs as huge plumes of black smoke fill the sky.
The Mexican government frantically unleashed armoured cars and heavily armed teams as it battles to control the violent scenes.
Footage shows a convoy of armoured vehicles ploughing through the streets.
Another clip appears to show heavy fighting overnight in Culiacan, with the sky lit up by helicopter gunfire.
State governor Ruben Rocha said seven members of the security forces had been killed and 21 had been injured as well as eight civilians.
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It is understood Infantry Colonel Juan José Moreno Orzua, commander of the 43rd Infantry Battalion, based in Tepic, and his four bodyguards were among those killed, reports El Universal.
Reports also claim armed groups stormed hospitals and health centres, “kidnapping” doctors and nurses and forcing them to treat cartel fighters wounded in fighting with federal authorities.
Distressing footage shared on social media shows the floor of a hospital covered in blood.
Two ambulances have reportedly been stolen with paramedics inside and doctors seized from several hospitals in the Sinaloan town of Navolato.
Widespread looting has also been reported in Culiacan, although it isn’t yet known if this is the work of cartel fighters or ordinary citizens.
Authorities urged people to stay indoors and said schools and administrative offices were closed due to the violence. Street blockades had also been erected.
The city’s airport was also caught up in the violence, with Mexican airline Aeromexico saying one of its planes had been hit by gunfire ahead of a scheduled flight to Mexico City.
David Tellez, a passenger who boarded the plane with his wife and three children, said they had decided to stay in the airport until it is safe to leave.
He said: “The city is worse. There is a lot of shooting and confusion.”
A Mexican air force plane was also shot at, the federal aviation agency said.
They added that the airport in Culiacan, as well as in the Sinaloa cities of Mazatlan and Los Mochis, would remain closed until security could be ensured.
Horror scenes show gunmen opening fire inside a commercial aircraft while it taxis along the runway at Culiacan, as terrified passengers desperately hide behind their seats.
A screaming baby can be heard in the background amid the gunfire.
It comes after Ovidio, a son of jailed kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was arrested on Wednesday night by Mexican security forces ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden next week.
The US had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Ovidio’s arrest or conviction.
It is not clear whether Ovidio will be extradited to the United States like his father, who is serving a life sentence at Colorado’s Supermax, the most secure US federal prison.
Ovidio was briefly captured in 2019 before security forces were forced to free him after the cartel launched an all-out war in response on the streets of Culiacan.
He has allegedly helped to run the infamous Sinaloa cartel since the extradition of his father in 2017.
Ovidio has also been accused by the US State Department – along with his brother Joaquin – of currently overseeing some 11 meth labs in Sinaloa state, producing up to 2,200kg of the drug per month.
Authorities believe he is also behind the murders of informants, a rival drug trafficker, and a popular Mexican singer who refused to sing at his wedding.
The country’s Defence Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval has confirmed that he has already been flown secretly to Mexico City to avoid a repeat of 2019.
El Chapo is currently serving life in prison in the US for trafficking hundreds of tons of drugs into the United States over a 25-year period.
The 65-year-old was convicted in 2019 of trafficking worth billions of dollars, as well as conspiring to murder his enemies.
But his cartel remains one of the most powerful in Mexico, and one of the largest drug trafficking organisations in the world.
The arrest of Ovidio, 32, would represent a major coup for the Mexican government in the war on drugs, ahead of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s meeting with Biden next week at a summit for North American leaders.
President Obrador’s left-wing government had previously been accused of going soft on the cartels, after he said that the violent tactics of his predecessors in response to the cartels had failed and only led to more bloodshed.
Instead, he called for a strategy of “hugs not bullets”.