End of truce: Colombia kills two cartel members, captures one

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The Colombian army said Tuesday it had killed two members of the infamous Gulf Clan drug cartel and captured one of its bosses as operations resumed after the government called off a ceasefire.

On New Year’s Eve, the government of new President Gustavo Petro had declared a bilateral ceasefire with armed groups including the Clan, National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels and dissidents of the disarmed former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.

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It was a first step in leftist Petro’s “total peace” plan to end decades of armed conflict through negotiation.

But on Sunday, Petro suspended the truce with the Gulf Clan, accusing it of being behind attacks on civilians.

The government said the group had been supporting attacks by illegal gold miners since March 2 in the country’s northwestern Antioquia department.

Workers in illegal mines have been protesting the government’s destruction of the heavy machinery they use to dredge up soil to find gold.

Miners have shut down roads, and attacked a town hall and a bank in the Caucasia district.

On Monday, the army said, it had captured the alleged “coordinator of the hired killers... of this illegal group,” a man known as “Andres,” in the Antioquia region.

According to Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez, some 10,000 policemen and soldiers were deployed to the area.

And in a video sent to the media, the military said a “confrontation” in the neighboring Bolivar department “caused the deaths of two members of the Clan.”

The troops will “continue military operations,” added Colonel Luis Cifuentes, in charge of operations against the Clan.

Criminal groups in Colombia make almost as much money from illegal mining as they do from trafficking cocaine, authorities say.

According to official estimates, the Gulf Clan – Colombia’s biggest cartel – is behind between 30 and 60 percent of the drugs exported from Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer.

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