Bogotá, Oct 23 (EFE).- Colombian armed forces have arrested Dairo Antonio Usuga, aka “Otoniel,” the dreaded head of the Gulf Clan cartel and the most-wanted drug trafficker in the country, the government said Saturday.
The Colombian forces arrested Otoniel, 50, from Uraba in the northern Antioquia province, thus ending more than six-year-old hunt by police and military in towns and jungles of the region bordering Panama.
His capture “is the hardest blow to the drug trafficking in this century in our country,” President Ivan Duque said.
“It is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s,” said the head of the conservative government, signaling a breakthrough for the country that is the top cocaine exporter.
Duque said the arrest came after the “Operation Osiris,” meticulously planned and conducted by the police, army, Marine corps, and air force.
The government released pictures of Otoniel soon after his arrest.
Wearing black pants, the same color t-shirt, and knee-high boots, the handcuffed powerful drug lord, flanked by gun-toting soldiers, is seen smiling at the camera.
Duque stressed that Otoniel was “the most feared drug trafficker in the world,” and the operation that led to his arrest involved an intelligence-sharing network of agencies from the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Colombian Police said Otoniel joined the drug cartel and later became its head following his stints with a left-wing guerrilla outfit and later with the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) that was disbanded in 2006.
Duque said Otoniel’s arrest marked the end of the Gulf Clan.
“And to all those who have belonged to this criminal structure, the message I send you is clear. Submit to justice immediately,” said Duque, warning that the law would chase them wherever they are.
The drug trafficker carried a reward of up to 3 billion pesos (about $800,000) for information on his whereabouts.
The United States government had also offered $5 million for help locating the drug cartel head.
Otoniel faces several charges, including sending shipments of cocaine to the US, killing police officers, community leaders, extortion, illegal mining, and recruiting children.
A US court indicted him in 2009 for drug-related offenses and now faces extradition proceedings. EFE