MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s armed forces were deployed to the city of Culiacán on Thursday night, as shootouts and street battles erupted in the streets, according to local news reports.
On Thursday evening, the government of Sinaloa state issued a warning on Twitter, urging residents to stay calm but “not to go out in the streets and to stay on high alert for official notices.”
It said that the armed forces were in the city “for the good of the security of Sinaloa and Mexico.” It said only that “high-impact incidents have occurred in recent hours in various points of Culiacán,” and that the government was working “to re-establish order and peace.”
On social media, people shared photos of black smoke billowing above Culiacán’s skyline, and videos that showed vehicles on fire, and armed men taking positions around the city, sometimes in trucks. Some videos showed civilians hiding behind parked cars or running toward cover as gunfire rang out nearby.
Rumors quickly began circulating on social media that the gunfights were related to the cartel that was run by Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug kingpin known as El Chapo, which remains powerful in Sinaloa, his home state. He was convicted in February in the United States on drug, murder and money laundering charges, and was sentenced to life in prison.
In February, the Justice Department charged two of El Chapo’s sons, Joaquín Guzmán López and Ovidio Guzmán López, with one count each of conspiracy to “knowingly, intentionally, and willfully” distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana for importation into the United States.
Two of El Chapo’s older sons who helped take over his business after his arrest in 2016, Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, also face charges in the United States. The drug kingpin’s sons were often mentioned during his trial, and they were accused of helping to orchestrate his tunnel escape from a maximum-security prison in Almoloya, Mexico, in 2015.