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Notorious Mexican Drug Lord Escapes From Mexican Prison ... Again

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He dismissed concerns that Guzman could escape a second time. That risk "does not exist."

Drug trafficker Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is escorted to a helicopter by Mexican security forces at Mexico's International Airport in Mexico city, Mexico, on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Mexico's apprehension of the world's most-wanted drug boss struck a blow to a cartel that local and U.S. authorities say swelled into a multinational empire, fueling killings around the world. {Image source: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

MEXICO CITY (TheBlaze/AP) — Top drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has done what Mexican authorities promised would not happen again after his re-capture last year — escaped for a second time from a maximum security prison.

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 U.S. border with Mexico.

Drug trafficker Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is escorted to a helicopter by Mexican security forces at Mexico's International Airport in Mexico city, Mexico, on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Mexico's apprehension of the world's most-wanted drug boss struck a blow to a cartel that local and U.S. authorities say swelled into a multinational empire, fueling killings around the world. {Image source: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Associated Press journalists near the Altiplano prison, 90 kilometers (56 miles) west of Mexico City, 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 p.m. 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.

According to Mexico's top security official Sunday, Guzman escaped through an elaborate one-mile tunnel that opened into his cell's shower.

Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said during Sunday's news conference that 18 employees from the Altiplano prison have been taken in for questioning.

A photo taken on July 12, 2015 shows a view of the Altiplano prison in Almoloya de Juarez, Toluca, Mexico, from where Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin Guzman Loera aka 'el Chapo Guzman' escaped on July 11. Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman has escaped from a maximum-security prison for the second time in 14 years, sparking a massive manhunt and dealing an embarrassing blow to the government. The kingpin was last spotted by security cameras entering the shower area of the Altiplano prison, 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of Mexico City, on July 11 night before disappearing, the National Security Commission said. AFP PHOTO / Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Guzman's escape is a blow 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.

He was re-captured in February 2014 after eluding authorities for days across his home state of Sinaloa, for which the cartel is named. He was listed as 56 years old last year, though there are discrepancies in his birth date.

Guzman faces multiple federal drug trafficking indictments in the U.S. as well as Mexico, and was on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's most-wanted list. The U.S. has said it would file an extradition request, though it's not clear if that has already happened.

Former Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told The AP earlier this year that sending Guzman to the United States would save Mexico a lot of money, but said Mexico would prosecute him at home as a matter of national sovereignty.

He dismissed concerns that Guzman could escape a second time. That risk "does not exist," Murillo Karam said.

During his first stint as a fugitive, Guzman transformed himself from a middling Mexican capo into arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world. His fortune grew to be estimated at more than $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which listed him among the "World's Most Powerful People" and ranked him above the presidents of France and Venezuela.

Mexican soldiers take part in a search operation to locate Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin Guzman Loera aka 'el Chapo Guzman along the highway between Mexico City and Toluca on July 12, 2015. Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman has escaped from a maximum-security prison for the second time in 14 years, sparking a massive manhunt and dealing an embarrassing blow to the government. The kingpin was last spotted by security cameras entering the shower area of the Altiplano prison, 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of Mexico City, on July 11 night before disappearing, the National Security Commission said. AFP PHOTO / Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Guzman has long been known for his ability to pay off local residents and even authorities, who would tip him off to security operations launched for his capture. He finally was tracked down to a modest beachside high-rise in the Pacific Coast resort city of Mazatlan on Feb. 22, 2014, where he had been hiding with his wife and twin daughters. He was taken in the early morning without a shot fired.

But before they reached him, security forces went on a several-day chase through Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state. They found houses where Guzman supposedly had been staying with steel-enforced doors and elaborate tunnels that allowed him to escape through the sewer system.

Even with his 2014 capture, Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel empire continues to stretch throughout North America and reaches as far away as Europe and Australia. The cartel has been heavily involved in the bloody drug war that has torn through parts of Mexico for the last decade, taking at least an estimated 100,000 lives.

Altiplano, which is considered the main and most secure of Mexico's federal prisons, also houses Zetas drug cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino, and Edgar Valdes Villarreal, known as "La Barbie," of the Beltran Leyva cartel.

This story has been updated to include comments from Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido.

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