MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico extradited to the United States on Friday a senior lieutenant of the Sinaloa Cartel drug gang formerly headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the attorney general's office said.

Damaso Lopez, known as "The Graduate" because of his higher education studies, was a former security official in Sinaloa state who rose to become one of the leaders of the cartel, authorities say. He was arrested in Mexico City last year.

Mexico's acting attorney general, Alberto Elias Beltran, said Lopez was seen as a key witness in the case against Guzman, who was extradited to the United States in January 2017 to face drug trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Armed policemen led Lopez, handcuffed and wearing a tactical vest with "detainee" written on it, onto a plane at an airport in Ciudad Juarez, television images released by authorities showed.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Bill Trott)

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