(Last Updated On: October 18, 2019)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — An extended gun battle with high-caliber weapons raged Thursday in the streets of the capital of Mexico’s Sinaloa state with entrances to the city blocked by burning vehicles.

Heavily armed civilians in trucks were firing in downtown Culiacan, with some shooting what appeared to be .50-caliber sniper rifles and truck-mounted machine guns, according to Culiacan-based news outlet Riodoce.

Riodoce reported that there was a heavy deployment of Mexican security forces and gunmen had blocked entrances to the city with burning vehicles.

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Sinaloa public safety director Cristóbal Castañeda told Milenio television the army started an operation Thursday afternoon and soon afterward government surveillance cameras alerted authorities that heavily armed people in vehicles were circulating in downtown Culiacan.

Castañeda did not state what the military’s objective was with the operation, but said that gunmen blocked a number of city streets with burning vehicles, a common tactic to make it difficult for authorities to maneuver.

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Simultaneously, some 20 to 30 prisoners escaped though some were quickly recaptured, he said.

State officials asked residents to avoid going out in parts of city.

Sinaloa’s soccer club Dorados announced that it had cancelled its game Thursday due to security concerns.

Sinaloa is home to the cartel by the same name, which was led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Guzman was sentenced to life in prison in the United States in July.

After Guzmán’s third arrest in 2016, an internal battle for succession began playing out. The battle was resolved with the arrest of Damaso López Nunez and his son Dámaso López Serrano, who led a rival faction.

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The cartel is currently led by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada with three of Guzman’s sons Ivan, Archivaldo and Alfredo, known as “los Chapitos,” or “the little Chapos.”

Representatives of Mexico’s security forces did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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