Wed, Aug 29, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US asks Colombia to extradite warlord for drug trafficking


Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo on Monday said the US is requesting the extradition of a paramilitary warlord who was kicked out of Colombia's peace process last week on suspicion of running a drug smuggling ring from jail.

Araujo said in a news conference that US authorities want to extradite Carlos Jimenez on federal charges of conspiracy to import more than 5kg of cocaine to the US.

On Friday, Jimenez became the first jailed militia boss to lose benefits conceded under a 2003 peace accord that led paramilitary leaders to demobilize in exchange for reduced prison terms and protection from extradition.

US embassy spokesman Marshall Louis said the embassy does not comment on extradition requests. Spokesmen at the US Justice Department could not be reached for comment.

The Colombian Supreme Court and President Alvaro Uribe must still sign off on the extradition request before it can be carried out. But in banishing Jimenez from the peace process on Friday, Uribe vowed to extradite the feared warlord.

Before disarming last December, Jimenez was blamed for mass murder and smuggling untold tons of cocaine into the US as head of one of Colombia's largest right-wing militias, the Central Bolivar Bloc.

Officials say Jimenez got his start in the drug underworld over a decade ago buying coca paste from peasants and in recent years emerged as a major partner of the Norte del Valle cartel.

Since taking office in 2002, Uribe's government has extradited more than 500 suspected drug traffickers to the US.

Jimenez, however, would be the first militia leader extradited for allegedly breaking his pledge to stay out of criminal activity and provide confessions to prosecutors investigating atrocities committed by the paramilitaries.

In exchange, he and some 50 other jailed paramilitary bosses were promised jail sentences of up to eight years and protection from extradition for their involvement in the cocaine trade.

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