Dairo Antonio Úsuga aka Otoniel, bloodthirsty leader of the largest drug cartel in Colombia, captured after a joint army, air force and police operation

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, led Colombia's largest criminal gang

Colombia has announced that the country’s most powerful and ruthless drug trafficker will be extradited to the US after he was captured in a raid. Dairo Antonio Úsuga, most commonly known as Otoniel, is the leader of the Gulf Clan, Colombia’s largest criminal gang. He 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, after he was indicted in 2003. The charges included the importation of more than 73 metric tonnes of cocaine into the US between 2003 and 2014. US Authorities also accused him of killing police officers and recruiting children.

A Massive Operation

There have been several huge operations involving thousands of officers to capture the 50-year-old in recent years. However the drug lord evaded capture, using a network of rural safe houses to move around, leaving behind a trail of expensive orthopaedic mattresses and luxury goods. Otoniel also did not use a phone, instead relying on couriers for communication. However, a team of more than 50 signal intelligence experts managed to track him down, using satellite imagery, supported by US and UK agencies.

Finally, they captured him in a rural hideout in Antioquia province in north-western Colombia, close to the border with Panama. The operation involved 500 soldiers supported by 22 helicopters.

“the biggest penetration of the jungle ever seen in the military history of our country”.

El Tiempo

The Gulf Clan

Colombia’s security forces labelled the Gulf Clan as the country’s most powerful criminal organisation. US Authorities, on the other hand, describe it as “heavily armed [and] extremely violent”.

The Cartel smuggles drugs and people, and also operates illegal gold mining and extortion. It has about 1,800 armed members, recruiting them from far-right paramilitary groups.

The gang controls many of the routes used to smuggle drugs from Colombia to the US.

In South America, there is no larger cocaine trafficker. We are living in the golden age of cocaine, we are producing more cocaine than ever – that’s a fact.”

Toby Muse, author of Kilo: Inside the Cocaine Cartels

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