Colombia has announced that the country’s most wanted drug trafficker will be extradited to the US after he was captured in a raid.
Dairo Antonio Úsuga, known as Otoniel, was seized after a joint army, air force and police operation on Saturday.
He led the country’s largest criminal gang and has been on the US Drug Enforcement Agency’s most wanted list for years.
US officials had placed a $5m (£3.6m) bounty on his head.
They accused him of importing at least 73 metric tonnes of cocaine into the country between 2003 and 2014.
Colombia’s Defence Minister Diego Molano told El Tiempo newspaper that the next step for officials was to comply with the US extradition order.
Authorities have now taken Otoniel to a military base in the capital Bogotá ahead of his extradition, according to newspaper El Nuevo Siglo.
Being locked up in a jail thousands of miles from their home country, in a place where they have few connections and no means to intimidate guards or prison directors is a fate many Colombian drug traffickers fear.
The late drug lord Pablo Escobar said that he would prefer “lying in a grave in Colombia than being locked up in a cell in the US”.
Except for a six-year period between 1991 and 1997, when Colombia’s constitution banned extraditions of Colombian citizens, a number of top level traffickers facing indictments in the US have been sent to stand trial there.
Among them are the co-founder of the Medellín cartel, Carlos Lehder, drug lord Daniel “The Madman” Barrera and paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso.
Otoniel, who was indicted in the US in 2009, will face a number of charges, including sending shipments of cocaine to the US, killing police officers and recruiting children.
Otoniel was captured in his rural hideout in Antioquia province in north-western Colombia, close to the border with Panama.
The operation involved 500 soldiers supported by 22 helicopters. One police officer was killed.
Otoniel had used a network of rural safe houses to move around and evade the authorities, and did not use a phone, instead relying on couriers for communication.
In the past, police have found special orthopaedic mattresses for Otoniel in these sparse homes, as he suffered back pain from a herniated disc. -BBC
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