September 11, 2007 in Nation/World

Colombia catches drug lord

Toby Muse Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Soldiers escort Diego Montoya at a military base Monday in Bogota.Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

BOGOTA, Colombia – Soldiers swarmed onto a farm Monday and captured one of the world’s most wanted drug lords hiding in bushes in his underwear.

Colombian officials called it their biggest drug war victory since the 1993 slaying of Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar.

Diego Montoya, who sits with Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list and has a $5 million bounty on his head, allegedly leads the Norte del Valle cartel. It is deemed Colombia’s most dangerous drug gang and is accused of shipping hundreds of tons of cocaine to the U.S. since the 1990s.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told a news conference at Bogota’s airport that Montoya was responsible for 1,500 killings in his career.

Montoya, 49, put up no resistance when the army finally cornered him in the cartel’s stronghold of Valle del Cauca state in western Colombia, officials said. He is to be questioned before being extradited to the U.S., a process that Santos said would take at most two months.

Better known as “Don Diego,” Montoya is said to be in a bitter turf war with his cartel’s other leader, Wilber Varela, who goes by the nickname “Jabon,” or “Soap,” and is reported to be living in Venezuela.

Montoya’s brother, Eugenio Montoya, was captured in January. Former cartel leader Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante, known as “Rasguno” or “Scratchy,” was extradited to the U.S. in July after pledging to cooperate with U.S. authorities. The gang’s alleged money-laundering chief, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, known as “Chupeta” or “Lollipop,” was arrested last month in Brazil.

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