Colombia kills guerrilla linked to drug submarines

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s air force killed a leftist guerrilla leader accused of sending cocaine-laden submarines to Mexico as part of an alliance with drug traffickers, Colombia’s defence minister said yesterday.

Jose Neftali Umenza, known as “Mincho” and wanted by the United States on drug-trafficking charges, was killed along with four other rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in an aerial bombardment in southern Valle province.

“This criminal had direct contact with the Mexican cartels. … This is a blow to the backbone of the FARC’s finances,” Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon told a news conference, estimating Umenza’s drug-trafficking activities accounted for 30 per cent of the FARC’s finances.

Pinzon also accused Umenza of commanding a fleet of home-made submarines used to ferry drugs northward. Colombian security forces have captured 71 of the vessels since 1993.

Colombian authorities say Umenza took part in the 2002 kidnapping of 12 provincial legislators, 11 of whom were killed after being held for five years, and of a 1991 attack on a military base that killed 18 navy sailors.

The Marxist-inspired FARC have waged guerrilla war for nearly 50 years, but have been seriously weakened by a US-backed military offensive since 2002.

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