Colombia armed forces capture top drug trafficker Otoniel -sources

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By Oliver Griffin, Nelson Bocanegra and Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA – Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, Colombia’s most sought after drug trafficker and leader of the Clan del Golfo, was captured on Saturday during an operation carried out by the country’s armed forces, military and police sources confirmed.

Colombia had offered a reward of up to 3 billion pesos (about $800,000) for information concerning Otoniel’s whereabouts, while the U.S. government had put up a reward of $5 million for help locating him.

After stints as a left-wing guerrilla and later paramilitary, Otoniel, 50, rose to become the leader of the criminal gang Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, a drug trafficking group.

Clan del Golfo has around 1,200 armed men – the majority former members of far-right paramilitaries – and is present in 10 of Colombia’s 32 provinces.

Colombian authorities launched Operation Agamemnon in 2016 as they worked to close in on Otoniel, killing and capturing dozens of his lieutenants, going after his finances and forcing him to be constantly on the move, according to the police.

In 2017 a video in which Otoniel announced his intent to submit himself to justice was published, but the plan never came to fruition.

In March, Colombian police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency captured Otoniel’s sister, Nini Johana Usuga, who was extradited to the United States to face charges connected to drug trafficking and money laundering.

As well as drug trafficking, Clan del Golfo is involved with illegal mining, authorities say, while the government accuses the group of threatening and killing community leaders across the country.

($1 = 3,780.38 Colombian pesos)

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin, Nelson Bocanegra and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Richard Chang and David Gregorio)