Colombian kingpin arrested in ‘biggest blow to drug trafficking since fall of Pablo Escobar’

World

A notorious Colombian drug kingpin has been arrested in what has been described as the biggest blow to the country’s trafficking network since the death of Pablo Escobar.

Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, was captured by the armed forces during an operation in a rural area of the South American nation’s Uraba region.

Both the Colombian and US governments had been willing to pay a premium for information about the gang leader’s network and whereabouts – three billion pesos (£577,000) and $5m (£3.6m) respectively.

Dairo Antonio Usuga David, alias "Otoniel", top leader of the Gulf clan, is escorted by Colombian military after being captured, in Turbo, Colombia October 23, 2021. Colombian Defense Ministry/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Image:
The drug kingpin has been the focus of years-long efforts to capture him

Otoniel is accused of sending dozens of shipments of cocaine to the US, killing police officers, illegal mining, recruiting minors, and sexually abusing children, among other crimes.

Colombian President Ivan Duque hailed the 50-year-old’s arrest in a video message, saying: “This is the biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century.

“This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.”

Saturday’s operation, Osiris, involved more than 500 members of Colombia’s special forces and 22 helicopters, according to defence minister Diego Molano.

More on Colombia

Such was the significance of the arrest, soldiers posed for pictures and took selfies with Otoniel.

The operation, which resulted in the death of one police officer, brought to an end years-long efforts to find Otoniel.

Dairo Antonio Usuga David, alias "Otoniel", top leader of the Gulf clan, poses for a photo escorted by Colombian military soldiers after being captured, in Necocli, Colombia October 23, 2021. Colombia's Military Forces/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES NO ARCHIVES.
Image:
Otoniel posed for photos with some of the troops

Dozens of his lieutenants were captured and killed in an operation in 2016, and his sister, Nini Johana Usuga, was arrested in March this year.

She was extradited to the US to face charges connected to drug trafficking and money laundering.

Otoniel’s rise to prominence saw him become leader of drug trafficking group Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, following stints as a left-wing guerrilla and later as a paramilitary.

Clan del Golfo has around 1,200 armed men – the majority being former members of far-right paramilitary groups, stationed across 10 of Colombia’s 32 provinces.

Colombia's President Ivan Duque speaks during a statement on the capture of Dairo Antonio Usuga David, alias "Otoniel", top leader of the Gulf clan, in Tolemaida, Colombia October 23, 2021. Colombian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Image:
Colombia’s President Ivan Duque hailed the arrest in a video statement

While Colombia’s president was bullish in the wake of Otoniel’s arrest, he has been warned that another figure will almost certainly take his place.

Sergio Guzman, director of the Colombia Risk Analysis organisation, said the arrest was a “big deal”, but that Otoniel was “bound to be replaced”.

Articles You May Like

Salesforce promotes Bret Taylor to co-CEO alongside Benioff
Ethiopian Olympic icon: ‘No choice’ but to join frontline
The FBI may have new information on disappearance of legendary union boss
Astronomers Find Two New Galaxies ‘Hiding’ Behind Curtain of Dust
This ‘Super Jelly’ Material Created With 80 Percent Water Can Withstand an Elephant’s Weight