Seven suspected members of the neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños” were killed in a fire-fight with the army’s Joint Chiefs of the Caribbean unit in the northern department of Cordoba, reported El Espectador Tuesday.
After army intelligence located the suspects in the town of San Jose de Ure, Cordoba the gang members resisted arrest and opened fire. In the ensuing fire-fight, all seven were killed.
In the same operation eight AK-47 assault rifles, six hand guns, one sub-machine gun, one hand grenade, ammunition for an M-26 and four motorcycles which authorities say were used for patrolling drug trafficking routes, were seized by soldiers.
According to authorities, the gang members had been intimidating the citizens of the small town for 15 days before they were killed, and had taken over a home, converting it into their lair.
The Cordoba department, on the Caribbean coast, has been a battle ground for drug traffickers and neo-paramilitary groups such as “Los Rastrojos,” “Los Paisas,” and Los Urabeños.
Los Urabeños are among the most militarily disciplined of the emerging criminal groups. Their leaders, the Usaga brothers from the northern region of Uraba near Panama, are former paramilitaries who re-armed after the demobilization of the AUC and concentrated their efforts on trafficking narcotics.
In February, talks began to surface about negotiating a surrender of drug gang members with the central government as was done with the demobilization of the AUC from 2003-2006. A reported stipulation in the surrender of these narco-traffickers was that they gain some political legitimacy which was given to the AUC during their disarmament. However, the central government has not been receptive, saying these groups have no political status.
The Minister of Interior and Justice German Vargas Lleras reported on April 1, that neo-paramilitary and drug gangs such as Los Rastrojos, Los Paisas, Los Urabeños, and “Aguilas Negras” have a presence in 151 municipalities in 17 departments and may be accountable for 40% of Colombia’s homicides.