MEXICO CITY Mexico's most notorious drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has escaped from a high security prison, officials said on Sunday, the second time he has given his captors the slip in 15 years.
Guzman, who once made it on to Forbes' list of billionaires and is also wanted by the United States, was seen on video entering a shower area at 8.52 p.m. local time on Saturday (0152 GMT Sunday), Mexico's National Security Commission said.
After he went out of view for a while, guards entered his cell to find it empty, the commission added in a statement, without going into details on how he got out of central Mexico's Altiplano prison.
The latest breakout by El Chapo, or "Shorty", is a major embarrassment for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who came to office in 2012 vowing to end a cycle of drug gang violence that has killed more than 100,000 people since 2007.
His escape could also strain relations with the United States, which wanted him extradited, said Alberto Islas, a security expert at consultancy Risk Evaluation.
"They were concerned about how dangerous he was, and they had a lack of confidence in the Mexican authorities to stop him operating from jail," he added.
Guzman became one of the world's top organized crime bosses, running Mexico's powerful Sinaloa Cartel, which smuggled billions of dollars worth of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines into the United States and fought vicious turf wars with other Mexican gangs.
Guzman was arrested last year. In 2001 he escaped Puente Grande prison near the city of Guadalajara, after a prior capture in 1993. According to reports at the time, he left hiding in a laundry cart.
Flights have been suspended from the city of Toluca's airport, near the Altiplano prison, and security officers have started searching roads near the site in the State of Mexico, about 90 km (60 miles) west of the capital, the commission said.
A senior law enforcement figure said Guzman's escape had disrupted plans for various security officials who were supposed to be accompanying Pena Nieto on a state visit to France.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said a meeting of senior security officials had been called, led by Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. He was unable to give details on who could have helped Guzman, or where he might be.
National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido is due to give a statement at 7 a.m., the interior ministry said.
(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Dave Graham; Editing by Dave Graham and Andrew Heavens)