Mexico arrests kingpin's escape pilot, brother-in-law

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican authorities have arrested the brother-in-law of drug baron Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who helped in his July jailbreak, and a pilot accused of flying him out of town, prosecutors said.

The pair were among six more people detained in connection with Guzman's prison escape, Attorney General Arely Gomez told a news conference, adding that they were people who worked on the outside.

"We can say that the group responsible for planning, organizing and carrying out the escape from the outside has been broken up," Gomez said.

She said the brother-in-law supervised and organized the construction of a 1.5-kilometer (one-mile) tunnel leading to a hole in his cell's shower in central Mexico State as well as other parts of the escape.

Guzman was then taken 145 kilometers (90 miles) by road to the central state of Queretaro, where two small Cessna planes awaited.

One of the aircraft took Guzman to the region "where he has taken refuge," the chief prosecutor said.

The pilot who transported Guzman had flown narcotics for the kingpin's Sinaloa drug cartel, Gomez said. The arrest of a second pilot was announced two weeks ago.

While Gomez did not specify where Guzman was flown, her announcement came days after officials said marine special forces closed in on the 58-year-old fugitive during raids in the northwest of the country earlier this month, somewhere around his home state of Sinaloa and Durango.

- Tunnel experts -

The other suspects who were detained include the "main organizer" of the July 11 jailbreak, who visited Guzman in prison to receive orders and keep him informed about the progress of the escape plans, Gomez said.

The others are a man who negotiated the purchase of land near the prison from where the tunnel began, the person who sold the property and another known to have coordinate construction of drug tunnels at the US border, she said.

Authorities have also detained more than a dozen prison officials over the escape, including the director of the Altiplano maximum security penitentiary and the national coordinator of the nation's jail system.

Guzman's jailbreak has deeply embarrassed President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration, which had scored a major victory when it captured him in February 2014 after a 13-year manhunt.

Guzman previously broke out of prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart.

- Mountain manhunt -

His latest escape has led to a massive manhunt in the mountains of Sinaloa and Durango, where residents told AFP journalists last weekend that marine helicopters shot at their homes and cars.

Guzman managed to evade arrest but injured a leg and his face when he fell in the mountain terrain while fleeing, officials have told AFP.

The authorities denied firing on the civilian population, with officials saying that troops only shoot when they come under attack.

Hundreds of people fled their ranches in Durango and took refuge in Cosala, a town in the neighboring state of Sinaloa.

The navy said operations on Sunday that it was continuing operations in the region.

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