A leader of a criminal group made up of Colombian rebel dissidents has been killed in a military operation in the country’s southwest, President Ivan Duque said.
Leider Johany Noscue, a dissident from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which laid down their arms in a 2016 peace deal with the state, was “one of the most wanted criminals in the country”, Duque said on Twitter on Monday.
Noscue, known as Mayimbu, was killed in mountainous terrain close in the Suarez municipality in Colombia’s Cauca province, the president said.
He was accused by authorities of murdering soldiers and community leaders, as well as kidnapping, extortion and cocaine trafficking. The government had offered a reward of $256,000 for information regarding his whereabouts.
“This operation shows that symbols of evil continue to fall wherever they are found. They will have no hiding place, they will have no refuge,” Duque said in a video address.
Colombia signed a peace agreement in 2016 with the FARC to end a decades-long battle, but some dissident members of the rebel group have chosen not to recognise it.
Since then, the country has seen a surge in violence as armed groups battle for territorial control of key areas, with human rights activists and Indigenous land defenders, in particular, facing often deadly attacks.
More than 400 human rights defenders have been killed in Colombia since 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report in February of last year.
“Killings of human rights defenders have increased as armed groups have swiftly stepped into the breach left by the FARC, warring for control over territory for coca production and other illegal activities,” the group found.
The Colombian government held Noscue responsible for the 2019 murder of a mayoral candidate in Suarez, the town in Cauca where he was killed by the army.
“This criminal … specialised in drug trafficking, in the alliance of FARC and its dissidents with the Mexican cartels, and intended on continuing to exercise his control over the Pacific drug trafficking routes,” said Duque.
Noscue’s fighters also have been accused of attacking local environmental activist Francia Marquez, who is the running mate of left-wing presidential candidate Gustavo Petro.
Petro is facing off against right-wing populist Rodolfo Hernandez in Sunday’s election runoff.