GUATEMALA CITY – Authorities in Guatemala are scouring a remote, rural area where local residents reported that Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, was among those killed in a gun battle between warring drug gangs.
However, as of late Thursday, law enforcement officials clarified that they had not yet found any bodies or even confirmed a shootout happened.
Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla told The Associated Press that police and soldiers would begin searching on foot and in the air at first light Friday, looking for the scene of the reported gunfight in the Peten province, near Guatemala’s border with Mexico.
Authorities initially said Thursday night that they were investigating whether Guzmán was one of at least two men killed in the remote area, but hours later backtracked and said they had only received reports of a battle from local people.
Guatemalan government spokesman Francisco Cuevas first told Guatevision Television that two drug gangs had clashed in Peten, an area that has seen an increase in drug violence and that at least two men had died in the shootout.
"We have to wait for all the technical information in order to determine if, in fact, one of the dead is of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán," Cuevas said.
Later, Cuevas told Mexico's Televisa network that authorities hadn't yet found a body or the scene where reports said a shootout took place.
He never said what led officials to think that one of the dead men might be Guzmán .
But Interior Department spokeswoman Carla Herrera said that one of the victims physically resembled the drug lord. She said officials had asked the Mexican government to send Guzmán's fingerprints to compare them to the man found inside a vehicle and to send them to investigators.
However, Herrera's boss, Lopez Bonilla, told the AP that it was residents of the town of San Francisco who had told officials of a gun battle and reported that one of the people killed looked like Guzmán .
"The fact is we don't have any of this information confirmed," Lopez Bonilla said.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said late Thursday that he had no information on the case.
"I don't have any information that can confirm that," he told reporters.
Peten province is an isolated area of jungle and ranches where 27 ranch workers were massacred in 2011 by the Zetas drug gang, a top rival for Guzmán's Sinaloa drug cartel.
Guzmán, who has been in hiding since escaping from a Mexican prison in a laundry cart in 2001, is one of the world's most dangerous and most wanted fugitives.
Just last week, authorities in Chicago named Guzmán the city's Public Enemy No. 1 — a label first given to gangster Al Capone and one that hasn't been used since Prohibition.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.