Colombian authorities arrest rebel leader

The Colombian authorities have arrested a rebel leader who is wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges. Farouk Shaikh Reyes was seized at an airport in the capital, Bogota, as he arrived from Mexico. He is accused of being at the centre of a drugs-running operation via Mexico, the proceeds of which are allegedly used to finance the left-wing rebels.

The largest guerrilla group in Colombia, the Farc, has denied drug trafficking.

However, both the Colombian and American authorities say they have evidence that the rebels ship cocaine to buy arms and fund a 17,000 strong army.

A Colombian security forces' statement said Mr Reyes was the main cocaine salesman for the Farc. It claimed he was part of a network which supplied $150m worth of the drug each month to the United States and Europe.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia says that if Mr Reyes is who the authorities believe he is, then the finances of the Farc have taken a hard knock.

The guerrilla group is estimated to earn in excess of $1bn a year, half from drugs and the rest from extortion and kidnapping, he says. Tens of thousands of civilians are known to have died during Colombia's 40-year civil conflict, involving left-wing rebels, right -wing paramilitaries and state forces, reports BBC news. I.L.

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