La Gaceta De Mexico - Colombian police kill fugitive drug kingpin

Colombian police kill fugitive drug kingpin
Colombian police kill fugitive drug kingpin / Photo: © Colombian National Police/AFP

Colombian police kill fugitive drug kingpin

A fugitive member of Colombia's Gulf Clan drug cartel wanted by the United States has been killed by police in the South American country, the government said Thursday.

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President Ivan Duque announced on Twitter that Juan Larinson Castro Estupinan, alias "Matamba" -- a former Gulf Clan boss and one of Colombia's most wanted criminals -- had been "neutralized."

The Gulf Clan, Colombia's biggest drug cartel, launched a revenge campaign this month, closing schools and bringing transport to a standstill in the country's north after its boss, Dairo Antonio Usaga, was extradited to the United States to face trafficking charges there.

Defense Minister Diego Molano said Thursday that Matamba, who had escaped prison in March pending a decision on his own extradition to the United States, was "killed in combat" in a police operation in the northern municipality of Bolivar.

"We continue dealing blows to the 'Gulf Clan'," said Duque, adding: "no bandit will have a burrow left to hide in."

Matamba had escaped from prison with the help of a guard who left his cell door open. He fled in a guard's uniform.

His helper was arrested and 55 other guards suspended, as well as the two top bosses of the La Picota prison.

His lawyers claimed he had never escaped, but was in hiding inside the prison while negotiating a surrender to the United States in exchange for information on drug routes.

In Colombia, he faced charges of criminal association for the purpose of homicide, extortion and illegally carrying of weapons.

On Wednesday, Molano also announced the "presumed death" of Miguel Botache Santillana, one of the leaders of a dissident left-wing guerrilla group, in Venezuela.

Colombia is experiencing a wave of increased violence despite a 2016 peace agreement that disarmed the FARC guerrilla group after nearly six decades of internal conflict.

Many of the areas abandoned by the FARC have since become battle grounds for the ELN rebel group, drug cartels and FARC dissidents fighting for control of drug and illegal mining revenues.

The rise in insecurity is a key issue ahead of a first round of presidential elections on Sunday.