Mexico holds 22 prison officials over Guzman escape

MEXICO CITY - Mexican prosecutors investigating the escape of drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman formally placed 22 prison officials in custody Tuesday over suspicions that the infamous fugitive had inside help.

While a massive manhunt for Guzman entered its third full day, the attorney general's office released 12 of 34 prison staff members who had been questioned since Sunday.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said Monday that Guzman "must have" had help from prison officials in his brazen escape on Saturday - the wealthy drug trafficker's second jailbreak in 14 years.

The episode saw Guzman slip out of his cell through a 1.5-kilometer (one-mile) tunnel dug under his private shower in the Altiplano maximum-security prison, some 90 kilometers west of Mexico City.

"There are 22 people who arrived as witnesses and their legal situation has changed to detainees. This means (prosecutors) presume that there was some sort of participation" in the escape, said an official in the attorney general's office.

Authorities now have 96 hours to either charge or release them.

The official refused to say whether the prison's director, who was fired on Monday, was among those released or kept in custody.

Escape hole on shower floor

As the investigation continued, local media were given access inside the Sinaloa cartel boss's prison cell.

Marked by the number 20, the white room has a small bed and the famous shower space from where Guzman escaped.

A rectangular hole opens on the floor of the shower, which has a short dividing wall and is filled with humidity stains. Guzman had to squeeze in next to a pipe to make his way down, where a ladder awaited.

A surveillance camera is located on the corner of a wall in front of the cell's entrance, while a second closed-circuit lens is inside the room. Officials say there was a blind spot in the bathroom to protect the inmate's privacy and "human rights." The other end of the long tunnel is inside a building on a hill surrounded by fields. A tall ladder leads up to an anteroom with an electrical system to power the lights inside the tunnel.

Prosecutors have questioned the owner of the property to figure out who had bought or rented it. Two of Guzman's attorneys have also been interrogated.

The escape marks the second time since 2001 that Guzman managed to flee a maximum-security prison, dealing a humiliating setback to President Enrique Pena Nieto, just 17 months after his much-celebrated capture.

The government has offered a $3.8 million reward for Guzman's capture, double the amount it usually offers for the country's most wanted criminals.

Amid mounting outrage at the escape, lawmakers in Congress asked Osorio Chong and other top security officials to testify on Thursday.

The legislature's security committee said the escape "affects the national security strategy of the state." Osorio Chong said that he would not step down, insisting that "crises are not the moment to resign but to confront them."

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