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Sunday, 22 April, 2001, 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK
Colombia arrests 'drug lord'
Special Colombian anti-narcotics unit
Colombian armed forces uncovered a massive drugs complex
By Jeremy McDermott in Colombia

Colombian armed forces have captured Brazil's alleged top drugs trafficker, after a manhunt in a jungle region close to the Brazilian border.

Luis Fernando da Costa is accused of supplying arms to left-wing rebels in Colombia in return for cocaine.

His arrest is a major coup for the security forces but piles more pressure on President Andres Pastrana and his peace process

He was captured on Saturday, two days after the plane in which he was travelling was forced to make an emergency landing by the Colombian air force.

The drug trafficker allegedly once controlled much of the narcotics trade in Rio de Janeiro, but moved his operations to Colombia after he escaped from a Brazilian prison in 1996.

The Colombian security forces knew it was only a matter of time before they caught him.

Army operation

They had been searching for him since February when an army operation codenamed "black cat" uncovered a massive drugs complex in the Colombian jungle near the Brazilian border.

Here the military found, according to army chief, General Jorge Enrique Mora, proof that da Costa was supplying Colombia's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), with weapons in exchange for cocaine.

President Andres Pastrana
The arrest might put pressure on Andres Pastrana
Several Brazilians were arrested at the site, but da Costa managed to get away and has been on the run ever since.

But the Colombian airforce on Thursday forced down a Cessna plane.

Da Costa, who was on board, was arrested after running off into the jungle.

His arrest is a major coup for the security forces, but piles more pressure on Colombian President Andres Pastrana and his peace process.

He has always said he will never deal with drugs traffickers and da Costa could prove that the FARC are directly involved in exporting drugs, undermining two years of so far fruitless peace talks with the rebels.

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See also:

29 Mar 01 | Americas
Hidden costs of Plan Colombia
15 Feb 01 | Americas
Thousands flee Colombian violence
10 Feb 01 | Americas
Colombia peace talks to resume
22 Jan 01 | Americas
Fight against drugs makes headway
14 Jan 01 | Americas
Eyewitness: Inside a cocaine factory
28 Mar 01 | Americas
Colombia frustrated by EU aid
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