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Colombia says it killed cocaine kingpin

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Weapons, ammunition found with dead drug lord, Colombian government says
  • NEW: Defense minister warns drug dealers will "end up in the jail or in a tomb"
  • Victor Manuel Mejia Munera linked to paramilitaries, also wanted in the U.S.
  • The slain man was originally thought to be brother Miguel Angel Mejia
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BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Colombian police have killed a drug trafficker who the government says is one of the most sought-after fugitive outside the country's rebel leaders.

Victor Manuel Mejia Munera was a drug lord with ties to paramilitary groups, the Colombian government says.

Victor Manuel Mejia Munera and two bodyguards were killed Tuesday when police tracked them down on a farm in the northwestern province of Antioquia, according to a statement on the Colombian presidency Web site.

Three people also were arrested, according to the statement.

Mejia Munera was wearing an American-style, desert-camouflage uniform when he was killed, said Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos. Mejia Munera also had short- and long-range weapons with ammunition, the presidential statement said.

"This is a great strike of the Public Force against the criminal structures of the country," Santos said, warning that drug traffickers who do not turn themselves over to the government will "end up in the jail or in a tomb."

In terms of the country's most-wanted list, Mejia Munera was one of Colombia's most sought-after criminals and ranked just below the leaders of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the statement said.

The leftist guerilla group, which goes by its Spanish acronym FARC, holds about 750 hostages in the jungles of Colombia and has justified hostage-taking as a legitimate military tactic in a long-running civil war involving government forces, drug traffickers and right-wing paramilitaries.

Mejia Munera is not alleged to have ties to FARC, but he had been involved with a right-wing paramilitary group known as United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, according to the U.S. State Department.

Mejia Munera and his brother, Miguel Angel Mejia Munera, known as "Los Mellizos," or "the Twins," have been accused of running major drug rings in Colombia. The brothers also have faced narcotics-trafficking charges in the United States.

Santos initially told reporters that police had killed Miguel Angel Mejia Munera. The Colombian presidency later said the slain drug lord was actually Victor Manuel Mejia Munera.

Fingerprints confirmed that the dead man was Victor Mejia Munera, Colombian-based Caracol Radio reported. The brothers sometimes exchanged identities, the radio station said, and identity documents belonging to Miguel Mejia Munera were found near Victor Mejia Munera.

In 2004, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia indicted the twins on narcotics-trafficking charges.

The U.S. Justice Department at one point offered a $5 million reward for "true and effective information" on the whereabouts of a dozen suspects it wanted extradited to the United States.

One of the 12 men wanted was Miguel Mejia Munera. The State Department said Wednesday there was no reward for Victor Mejia Munera.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control reported that the brothers have been involved in narcotics trafficking since the early 1990s, when they were guarding ships carrying cocaine from western Colombia to Mexico.

"Over time," OFAC said in a news release last year, the brothers "rose through the ranks to lead their own narcotics trafficking organization."

"Recent reports indicate that Los Mellizos may be funding their own illegal armed groups to facilitate their narcotics trafficking activities," the release said.

The Colombian prosecutor general's office had indicted Victor Mejia Munera for his role in a 2004 paramilitary massacre of 11 farmers in Tame in the eastern Colombian province of Arauca, according to the State Department. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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