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Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 02:39 GMT 03:39 UK

World: Americas

Drug factory rumbled in jungle

The factory could produce eight tons of cocaine a month

Colombian police have swooped on a huge drug factory in the jungle.

Jeremy McDermott: "The police captured 150 tons of cocaine"
Some 300 anti-drug police backed by 10 helicopters raided the seven square mile site and found a ton of pure cocaine and generators capable of serving a town of 5,000 people.

The drug complex was hidden beneath the jungle canopy at Cimitarra, 180km north of Bogota, in the Magdalena Medio region.

National police chief Jose Serrano, who led the operation, fought off the plant's right-wing paramilitary guard in the initial burst of gunfire.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott: "Massive operation"
Police moved in unopposed to find three laboratories up to four storeys high, sleeping facilities for more than 200 workers and 150 tons of chemicals.

It was said to be capable of producing eight tons of cocaine a month.

Authorities described the plant as one of the most modern facilities of this type found in Colombia, which produces 80% of the world's cocaine.

'Very positive'

General Serrano said he believed the factory was run by a local paramilitary warlord in league with the remains of the old Cali and Medellin cartels, once the largest criminal organisations in the world.

"It is a very positive event in our struggle against drug trafficking," said the general.

"We have confiscated $5m worth of laboratory material ... so it is a very satisfactory operation, the best we have conducted this year."

The factory was burnt down in the raid. Two policemen were caught in the flames and had to be treated for injuries.

No arrests were made.

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