MEXICO CITY — He became a byword for government incompetence, a figure who seemed invincible after he burrowed his way out of the country’s most secure prison.
But on Friday, nearly six months after his escape, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, was captured again after a fierce gun battle near the coast in his home state, Sinaloa, Mexican officials said. “Mission accomplished: We have him,” President Enrique Peña Nieto announced.
The arrest ended one of the most extensive manhunts undertaken by the government, involving every law enforcement agency in the country and help from the United States.
But it was the marines, Mexico’s most-trusted military force, who managed to capture the fugitive in an early morning raid that left five people dead, the Mexican authorities said. An American official also described the raid as “a Mexican op, planned and executed by Mexico.”
The government said late Friday that it had been watching a home in Los Mochis for more than a month when law enforcement officers finally saw movement on Thursday. Officials said that during the ensuing raid, Mr. Guzmán managed to slip away through the sewers, and then he surfaced, stole a car and was apprehended. The authorities took him to a hotel to wait for backup.
The capture of the drug lord concludes a deeply embarrassing chapter for the government of Mr. Peña Nieto, which has been waylaid by a series of security and corruption scandals that reached their low point with Mr. Guzmán’s daring escape.
Now, a looming question is whether the Mexican authorities will try to hold Mr. Guzmán for a third time — he has already escaped from prison twice — or whether they will hand him over to the Americans.
Mexican officials are busily debating the issue. Some are arguing for a “fast-track” extradition that could put him in the United States quickly, while others want to continue a previous process that could take months, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. Mr. Guzmán, the head of Mexico’s most powerful cartel, is facing indictments in at least seven American federal courts on charges that include narcotics trafficking and murder.