COLOMBIA'S most powerful drug lord and one of the United States' most wanted criminals has been captured after more than ten years on the run.

Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, known as Otoniel, was nabbed by police in a huge military operation involving 500 soldiers backed by 22 helicopters.


The Colombian kingpin was taken aliveat his jungle hideout in the northwest region of Antioquia on Saturday.

The 50-year-old has been accused of sending multiple shipments of cocaine to the US as well as killing police officers, recruiting schoolchildren, sexually abusing children and other horrifying crimes.

Otonielwas his drug-plagued nation’s most-wanted trafficker and the leader of its largest criminal gang with a feared force of 1,800 heavily-armed militia.

UK intelligence services assisted the swoop US experts provided satellite tracking after slapping a £3.6 million ($5million) price on his head on top of a £600,000 bounty offered by Colombia.

Otoniel ran the violent Clan Del Golfo cartel which controls major cocaine smuggling routes through Colombia’s impenetrable jungles.

The clan’s previous leader – his brother – was killed by police in a raid on a New Year's Eve party almost 10 years ago.

President Ivan Duque compared the arrest to the killing of the 'King of Cocaine' Pablo Escobar hailing it as the "the biggest penetration of the jungle ever seen in the military history of our country".

He added: "This is the biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century.

"This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s."

The leader of the Medellin drug cartel was hunted down by police and shot dead in 1993.

Otoniel was captured in his rural hideout in Antioquia province in north-western Colombia, close to the border with Panama.

One police officer was killed in the meticulously planned swoop on his lair, which had been watched for two weeks before the signal was given to move in.

Otoniel had constantly moved between safe houses and never used a phone to avoid being traced – relying instead on a network of couriers to communicate.

But his location at the time of his capture was pinpointed two weeks ago, El Tiempo newspaper said.

Colombia's armed forces later released a photo showing its soldiers guarding smirking, black-clad Otoniel, wearing handcuffs and rubber boots.

Other huge operations to ensnare the godfather in recent years have failed.

The gang, which operates in many provinces and has extensive international connections, is engaged in drug and people smuggling, illegal gold mining and extortion.

Its members were said to have been recruited from far-right paramilitary groups with tentacles spreading to Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Peru and Spain.

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