Colombian police have arrested the former leader of a right-wing paramilitary death squad accused of ordering at least 2,500 murders, judicial investigators said on Tuesday.
Arnolfo Santamaria, alias “Pipa,” was captured by agents of the Prosecutor General’s Office in the town of Soacha, where he passed himself off as a witch doctor and vendor of mobile telephones, the office said Tuesday.
Santamaria commanded the southern front of the paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), which authorities blame for more than 5,000 crimes in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It operated in the department of Putumayo, bordering Ecuador and Peru.
The militia leader and several of his lieutenants demobilized in March 2006, but later broke the terms of the Justice and Peace Law that governed the dissolution of the AUC units between 2003-06.
He was a fugitive for more than three years, accused of murder, kidnapping, forced disappearances and other crimes, including the slaying of a union organizer in the rural municipality of South San Miguel in 2005, officials said.