Extradited paramilitary warlord Diego “Don Berna” Murillo testified before a U.S. court that Colombia’s former army chief and current ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Mario Montoya, aligned with paramilitary organization AUC in 2002.
According to Miami-based newspaper El Nuevo Herald, ‘Don Berna’ testified that Montoya and Police chief Jose Leonardo Gallego collaborated with Don Berna’s Cacique Nutibara Block to perform an operation in a poor Medellín neighborhood. Dozens of civilians disappeared during the operation and are thought to be in mass graves just outside Colombia’s second largest city.
The October 2002 joint operation was dubbed ‘Operation Orion’ and was meant to cleanse Medellín’s Comuna 13 neighborhood of guerrilla infiltration, Don Berna says in an official letter to a New York federal court.
“The self-defense forces of Cacique Nutibara entered the Comuna 13 area as part of an alliance with the army’s 4th Brigade and police chief Leonardo Gallego,” Murillo says. Montoya at that time was commander of the 4th brigade.
According to the warlord, the community and the security forces had asked for the help of the AUC to reconquer the neighborhood from the guerrillas and assigned the Police’ anti-kidnapping unit to collaborate with the death squads.
According to NGOs 68 people went missing during the operation, one minor was executed, 38 civilians were injured by bullets and 355 of the neighborhood’s inhabitants were illegally detained.
Montoya was celebrated as army commander as the coordinator of ‘Operation Jaque’, the operation that liberated Ingrid Betancourt, three U.S. hostages and eleven soldiers, but resigned from the army in October 2008 amid a growing scandal of military officials murdering civilians to make the war against illegal armed groups look more effective.
The Government appointed him ambassador to the Dominican Republic a few months after that.
Montoya would not respond to the accusations.