Guzman escapes from prison via 1.5km tunnel

Mexico City - Top drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman escaped through a 1.5-kilometre tunnel that opened into the shower area of his cell, Mexico's top security official announced Sunday.

With the elaborate escape hatch built allegedly without the detection of authorities, Guzman has done what Mexican authorities promised would not happen after his re-capture last year - slipped out of a maximum security prison for the second time.

Eighteen employees from various part of the Altiplano prison 90 kilometres west of Mexico City have been taken in for questioning, Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said in a news conference on Sunday.

A manhunt began immediately late Saturday for the head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, which has an international reach and is believed to control most of the major crossing points for drugs at the US border with Mexico.

Associated Press journalists near the Altiplano said the roads were being heavily patrolled by Federal Police, who had also set up checkpoints. Flights were also suspended at Toluca airport near the penitentiary in the state of Mexico.

Guzman was last seen about 9 pm on Saturday in the shower area of the Altiplano prison, according to a statement from the National Security Commission issued early Sunday. After a time, he was lost by the prison's security camera surveillance network. Upon checking his cell, authorities found it empty. 

Guzman's escape is an embarrassment to the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, which has received plaudits for its aggressive approach to top drug lords. Since the government took office in late 2012, Mexican authorities have nabbed or killed six of them, including Guzman.

Guzman was caught by authorities for the first time in Guatemala in 1993, extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison on drug-trafficking related charges. He escaped from Puente Grande, another Mexican maximum-security prison in western Jalisco state, in 2001 with the help of prison guards. The lore says he escaped in a laundry cart, although there have been several versions of how he got away.

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