A Colombian drug lord who flooded the U.S. and Mexico with cocaine was shot dead in his own home on New Year’s Eve during a police raid.
Juan de Dios Usuga, wanted by the U.S. for supplying tonnes of cocaine to Mexican gangs, was leader of the powerful Urabenos cartel and had a $2.5 million bounty on his head.
A team of 150 officers stormed the house, in the northwest area of Choco near the border of Panama, shortly after 6am.
They had been tipped off he would be celebrating the start of 2012 there with his brother.
Four of his trusted lieutenants were captured and one police officer was killed in the raid.
On hearing the news, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted: ‘The police put down in Choco alias Usuga, head of the Urabenos and captured various of his accomplices. What a good start to the year.’
The Urabenos are one of Colombia’s main gangs, along with Los Rastrojos, Los Paisas and Las Aguilas Negras.
Usuga was a lieutenant of drug lord Daniel Rendon Herrera, who was captured in a 2009 raid.
He had formerly been a right-wing paramilitary fighter and was also wanted for his involvement in a series of murders.
Dealer: Juan de Dios Usuga supplied tonnes of cocaine to Mexican gangs as leader of the powerful Urabenos cartel
Colombia is one of the world’s top producers of cocaine, and criminal gangs made up of former right-wing paramilitary groups and old cartels have become a major emerging threat to the nation of 46 million people.
In November, Colombia and neighbouring Venezuela announced the capture of one of the region’s most-wanted drug traffickers, who was head of the Paisas gang.
While bloodshed from Colombia’s long guerrilla and drug wars has dropped since a U.S.-backed offensive began more than a decade ago, bombings, murders and combat continue, mainly in Colombia’s frontier areas.
The decline in violence has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment mainly to Colombia’s mining and oil sectors, which has allowed the country to boost crude and coal output to historic highs.