Colombian forces capture country's most wanted drug lord

Colombian anti-narcotics police helicopter.
Colombian anti-narcotics police helicopter. RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images

Colombian military forces and police captured the South American nation's most wanted drug trafficker, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, in his rural hideout near the Panama border on Saturday, reports BBC. The government had offered a $800,000 reward for confirmed information on how to find him; the U.S. had offered $5 million.

Úsuga, better known by his alias Otoniel, is the leader of Colombia's largest criminal gang, per BBC. He became the head of the Gulf Clan after his brother, its previous leader, was killed by police during a raid nearly 10 years ago. Saturday's operation involved 500 soldiers supported by 22 helicopters. It was one of many attempts to capture the "50-year-old in recent years, but until now none have been successful," writes BBC.

"Otoniel's capture is truly important," Daniel Mejía, a Colombian university professor and narco-trafficking expert, told The Washington Post. "He was the head of the most powerful narco-trafficking structure in Colombia, the Gulf Clan, which holds domain of a broad part of the territory."

The drug lord is now looking at a "number of charges, including sending shipments of cocaine to the US, killing police officers, and recruiting children," per BBC.

"This is the biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century," said Columbian President Iván Duque Márquez, praising the news in a televised message. "This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s."

But despite his celebration, some — like Sergio Guzmán, director of the consulting firm Colombia Risk Analysis — worry Otoniel's arrest "is not going to move the needle in terms of the war on drugs," Guzmán told the Post. "Soon we'll have another kingpin and another drug lord who may be much worse."

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