The second-in-command of Colombia’s Los Urabeños drug gang was killed in a shootout with police, authorities said Wednesday.
Francisco Jose Morela, alias “El negro Sarley,” was killed in a rural area outside the northwestern town of Turbo, Antioquia province, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon and National Police director Gen. Jose Roberto Leon Riaño said in a press conference.
President Juan Manuel Santos, for his part, congratulated the National Police for the “major blow” dealt to the Los Urabeños drug-trafficking organization.
The gang’s reputed military chief and a suspect in homicides and massacres and the smuggling of cocaine through jungle-shrouded northwestern Colombia to Central America, Morela had been under surveillance for some time, Pinzon said.
Los Urabeños, one of the organizations that emerged following the ostensible demobilization last decade of the AUC paramilitary federation, is led by Morela’s brother-in-law, Dairo Antonio Usuga.
“That gang (Los Urabeños) is perhaps the last such nation-wide group and this year we’ve set ourselves the challenge of weakening it once and for all,” Pinzon said.
The minister said recently that these emerging bands of ex-paramilitary fighters were “in their final phase” and had been broken up into 300 smaller structures.
But humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations say these paramilitary successor groups remain one of the main threats to public safety in the Andean nation.
Though the AUC was founded to battle leftist rebels, it deteriorated into a loose association of drug-dealing death squads led by men who amassed large fortunes.