Drug Lord on DEA's Most Wanted List to Be Extradited to the US


The most wanted drug trafficker in Colombia will be extradited to the U.S. after he was taken into custody during a Saturday raid.

Colombia announced Dairo Antonio Úsuga, who led the country’s largest criminal gang, was captured after a joint army, air force and police operation, BBC News reported.

Known as Otoniel, he has been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s most-wanted list for years and had a $5 million bounty on his head placed by officials.

Otoniel is accused of importing at least 73 metric tons of cocaine into the U.S. between 2003 and 2014.

He was indicted in the U.S. in 2009 and will face charges concerning cocaine shipments, killing police officers and enlisting children.

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His gang is believed to have approximately 1,800 members and often recruits from far-right paramilitary groups.

Members have been arrested in Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Peru and Spain, while the group controls drug smuggling routes as far away as Russia.

“In South America, there is no larger cocaine trafficker,” Toby Muse, author of “Kilo: Inside the Cocaine Cartels,” said.

“We are living in the golden age of cocaine, we are producing more cocaine than ever — that’s a fact.”

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The drug lord was seized in his rural hideout in the northwest region of Colombia near its border with Panama.

Otoniel had a network of safe houses in rural areas and he relied on couriers for communication, rather than phones.

He was careful to never approach “inhabited areas” out of fear of being captured, police chief Jorge Vargas said, according to BBC News.

Otoniel’s location was traced by more than 50 signal intelligence experts using satellite imagery, according to Vargas.

Both the U.S. and the United Kingdom were involved in the search.

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The raid consisted of 500 soldiers supported by 22 helicopters. One police officer died.

Otoniel was a part of several guerrilla and paramilitary groups before he started to work for drug lord Daniel Rendón Herrera in 2005, BBC News reported. Herrera headed a gang now known as the Gulf Clan, which Otoniel eventually took over.

The gang has been described as “heavily armed [and] extremely violent” by U.S. authorities, while Colombia’s security forces see it as the country’s most powerful criminal organization.

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