U.S. authorities have charged six men arrested in Colombia with attempting to sell grenade launchers, automatic rifles and other weapons to undercover agents posing as members of a far-right Colombian paramilitary group.
The men, three Colombian nationals, two Hondurans and a Nicaraguan, also face charges of trafficking cocaine destined for the United States, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami said in a statement on Wednesday.
U.S. officials said the six were arrested in a sting operation and thought they were selling the weapons to members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, one of the paramilitary groups set up in the 1980s by wealthy Colombians to fight leftist rebels.
It was not immediately clear if the men were arrested by U.S. or Colombian law enforcement officials. Nor was it immediately clear if the men were still in Colombia or the United States, or if they would be extradited to the United States.
The U.S. government considers the group a foreign terrorist organization. The men were charged with providing material support to a designated terrorist organization.
“This case will send a message to those individuals and criminal organizations who attempt to profit by illegally supplying weapons to terrorist organizations,” Anthony V. Mangione, a U.S. immigration and customs official, said in the statement.
The sting operation was part of U.S. efforts to crack down on illicit weapons-for-drugs exchanges in Central and South America, the statement said.