Page last updated at 22:24 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Honduras anti-drug chief shot dead by gunmen

Honduran investigators examine the car in which Gen Arisitides was shot
Gen Arisitides had been in his post for five years

Gunmen in Honduras have shot dead the head of the country's anti-drug trafficking operations.

Police said retired Gen Julian Aristides Gonzalez was travelling in a car in the capital, Tegucigalpa, when attackers on a motorcycle opened fire.

Honduras is a major route for drugs smuggled from South to North America.

The nation, mired in political crisis since President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in June, also has one of the highest murder rates in the region.

Gen Aristides, director general of the national office for combating drug trafficking, was travelling by car through Tegucigalpa when two attackers on a motorcycle opened fire, police said.

He was reportedly travelling alone, without bodyguards.

On Monday, Gen Aristides had presented a report about drug trafficking through Honduras and voiced concern about the number of landing strips in Honduras that traffickers were using.

He said land owners who allowed their property to be used could face charges of involvement in drug smuggling.

Honduras has long been seen as a transit route for cocaine smuggled from Colombia to the US, with much of the drugs flown into remote airstrips by light aircraft and then moved on to Guatemala and Mexico to reach the North American market.

Gen Aristides said recently he believed smuggling had surged since the US limited anti-drugs co-operation with Honduras in protest at the ousting of President Zelaya in June.

Police have said they have detected more aircraft carrying drugs but have limited resources to stop them without US helicopters and radar.

The Central American country has seen political upheaval this year after President Zelaya was removed from office. He remains holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Elections at the end of November, recognised by some countries, including the US, saw Porfirio Lobo chosen as the next leader. He is due to take office on 27 January.

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