Dramatic footage captured the chaos unfolding aboard an Aeromexico flight when the aircraft was struck by gunfire that erupted at a Mexican airport following the arrest of Ovidio Guzmán-López, the son of notorious druglord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
David Tellez, 42, shared a cellphone recording on Twitter Thursday showing terrified travelers aboard Aeromexico Flight 165 from Culiacan to Mexico City crouching on the floor between rows of seats as a child wails in the background.
Tellez was flying home with his wife and their three children, aged seven, four and one, after spending Christmas with family.
“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.
Deadly violence broke out throughout the northern city of Culiacan in the wake of the arrest of Guzmán-López, nicknamed “El Raton.” or “The Rat,” who is said to be a senior member of the Sinaloa drug cartel that was once helmed by his now-imprisoned father.
The young kingpin’s capture unleashed a sprawling and intense exchange of fire that left 10 members of the Mexican military and 19 suspected drug traffickers dead.
Tellez said he and his family had reached the airport in Culiacan for their 8:24 a.m. flight without incident, despite running into road blockades set up after overnight shootouts.
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Although Guzmán-López’s arrest had not yet been confirmed by then, jittery security guards urged travelers to enter quickly.
Tellez hid in an airport bathroom with his wife and children after hearing that cartel members were in the airport. The rumor turned out to be false, and the Aeromexico travelers boarded the plane.
Just as the commercial flight was about to take off, two large military planes landed with troops along with three or four military helicopters, and marines and soldiers began deploying along the perimeter of the runway.
Tellez took out his cellphone, recording several videos that show large air force transport aircraft, smaller, fighter-like attack aircraft and military trucks on the tarmac.
When Flight 165 was finally preparing to accelerate, Tellez heard gunshots in the distance. Within 15 seconds the sound was suddenly more intense and much closer, and passengers threw themselves to the floor, he said.
He did not know the plane had been hit by gunfire until a flight attendant told them the engine had been struck, causing a leak. No one was injured, but the plane returned to the terminal.
The crew directed passengers to get off the plane, moving them to a windowless waiting room in the airport.
On Friday, Mexico’s Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval described a battle in Culiacan that resembled a war: cartel gunmen opened fire on troops with .50 caliber machine guns, and the army responded by calling in Blackhawk helicopter gunships to attack a convoy of 25 cartel vehicles, including truck-mounted cartel gun platforms.
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The cartel then opened fire on the military aircraft, forcing two of them down with “a significant number of impacts” in each of the two aircraft, Sandoval said.
The gang then sent hordes of gunmen to attack fixed-wing aircraft, both military and civilian, at the city’s airport to prevent authorities from flying Guzman out of the city.
But Sandoval said that, anticipating the resistance, authorities had immediately loaded the cartel kingpin onto a military helicopter to fly him directly back to Mexico City.
The 32-year-old accused trafficker was then taken by helicopter to a maximum-security prison near Toluca.
The US State Department previously promised a $5 million reward for information on Guzmán-López’s whereabouts. He was suspected of running 11 methamphetamine labs producing 5,000 pounds of the deadly drug each month.
His father is serving a life sentence at a Colorado federal prison after being convicted of criminal enterprise and cocaine distribution in 2019.
With Post wires
This article was originally posted here