Martha Marbella was getting ready to prepare dinner for her three children one evening last week when a plane flew over their home in the village of El Verano, deep in the Sierra Madre.
Next, three helicopters swooped overhead. The biggest one, dark gray, had the face of a shark painted on it, and the emblem of the Mexican marines. She thought it was preparing to land, but instead it opened fire.
“I was out the back with the baby in my arms when I heard the first bullet hit the house. I just ran and hid behind my back wall,” said Marbella, whose small house was soon peppered with bullet holes.
Her neighbor hid under a bed with her son and his young friends from school.For more than an hour and a half, “all I could hear was shooting,” said the woman, who was fearful of giving her name.
The massive military operation in El Verano and at least 12 other villages in the rugged borderlands of Durango and Sinaloa was aimed at capturing fugitive cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, authorities confirmed this week.
“Military personnel from Mexico City are working in the zone,” Sinaloa state Gov. Mario Lopez told reporters. As for Guzman, he said, “Yes, that’s the objective of this group.”
Last week’s major search operation seemed to be focused around the municipality of Tamazula, of which El Verano, La Calera and dozens of other similar villages are a part. Authorities swept in with force after receiving a tip from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, based on cellphone records, that Guzman was in the area, according to a variety of news reports.
Federal authorities late Friday confirmed that the elusive leader of the Sinaloa cartel had evaded capture, but had been injured while making his escape.
“As part of these efforts and thanks to intelligence and information exchange with international agencies, operations have been carried out across the country,” said a statement from a coalition of federal security agencies. “As a consequence of these actions and to avoid capture, in recent days the fugitive made a hasty escape, which, according to information, caused him injuries in one leg and in the face.”