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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 January, 2004, 09:49 GMT
Top Colombian drug suspect seized
Arcangel de Jesus Henao Montoya
Police said the alleged drug kingpin's capture was 'very hard'
Police in Panama say they have arrested a suspected leader of one of Colombia's most powerful drug cartels.

Arcangel de Jesus Henao Montoya was seized along with a number of others near the border with Colombia, said Panamanian police chief Carlos Bares.

He is wanted in the US - and the US Drugs Enforcement Agency was involved in his capture, the police chief said.

Mr Henao Montoya is suspected of being a leader of the Norte de Valle cartel, based in the Colombian city of Cali.

Last month, Colombian police said they had arrested Juan Carlos Montoya Sanchez, another suspected senior member of the cartel who is also wanted in the United States.

Police arrested Mr Henao Montoya's brother, Diego Leon Montoya, at about the same time.

Local newspapers reported that Mr Leon Montoya, Mr Henao Montoya and two other Norte de Valle kingpins had earlier offered to surrender to Colombian authorities in exchange for a promise that they would not be extradited to the United States.

'Difficult catch'

Mr Henao Montoya was arrested in the southern Panama city of Torti early on Saturday and taken by police to the capital, Panama City, along with several others.

Police chief Carlos Bares said his capture had been "difficult work".

"This is a significant achievement in the fight against drug trafficking," he said.

Mr Henao Montoya's Norte de Valle organisation is thought to have taken control of segments of the international cocaine market left open by the deaths of leaders in the dominant Cali Cartel in the mid-1990s.

The Cali Cartel rose to dominate the international cocaine and heroin market after the death of drugs kingpin Pablo Escobar in 1993.

Colombia remains the world's largest producer of cocaine and a major supplier of heroin to the US.


SEE ALSO:
Colombia 'drugs baron' surrenders
28 Dec 03  |  Americas
US goes after Cali cocaine bosses
24 Dec 03  |  Americas



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