Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero captured as 14 killed in helicopter crash during operation

This image released by the FBI shows the wanted poster for Rafael Caro Quintero. Credit: FBI via AP

Drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who was behind the killing of a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent in 1985, has been captured by Mexican forces nearly a decade after walking out of prison, according to the country’s navy.

Quintero, who was one of the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives, was arrested after a search dog found him hiding in bushes in the town of San Simon in Sinaloa state, a navy statement said.

The site was in the mountains near Sinaloa’s border with the northern border state of Chihuahua.

Emergency personnel work next to the navy Blackhawk helicopter. Credit: AP

Meanwhile, a navy Blackhawk helicopter carrying 15 people crashed near the coastal city of Los Mochis during the operation, killing 14 of those aboard, the navy statement added.

The available information indicated it suffered an “accident,” the cause of which had not yet been determined, the statement said. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the helicopter crashed shortly before landing after supporting those who conducted the capture of Quintero.

Mexico’s national arrest registry listed the time of Caro Quintero’s arrest as around midday.

There were two pending arrest orders for him as well as an extradition request from the US government.

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said that Quintero was arrested for extradition and would be held at the maximum security Altiplano prison about 50 miles west of Mexico City.

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Former leader of the powerful Guadalajara Cartel, Quintero, who was one of the main suppliers of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana to America in the late 1970s, is on the US most wanted list.

He had walked free in 2013 after 28 years in prison when a court overturned his 40-year sentence for the 1985 kidnapping and killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena.

The drugs lord had since returned to drug trafficking and unleashed bloody turf battles in the northern Mexico border state of Sonora.

An appeals court overturned Quintero’s verdict in 2013, concluding that he should have been tried in a state rather than a federal court.

The ruling, however, was later overturned by the country's supreme court - but Quintero had already gone into hiding by that time. He was on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a $20m (£17m) reward for his capture and was added to the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list in 2018.