A suspected arms trafficker whose network is accused of supplying 500 rifles to the FARC rebels has been arrested in Colombia.
Carlos Enrique Pombo was arrested in Cali in a joint operation between Colombia and US law enforcement, and Interpol. US authorities accuse Pombo's network of smuggling some 500 rifles into Colombia for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group, reported El Tiempo.
The accused trafficker has been operating since 2003, investigators said, when his brother and two others were arrested in Miami accepting a shipment of 50 rifles, Caracol reported.
El Tiempo reported that the US Embassy in Bogota said Pombo employed people to buy the arms in parts and then smuggle them into Colombia.
A Florida court has requested Pombo's extradition; following his arrest he was transferred to Bogota as part of the extradition process.
InSight Crime Analysis
The arrest could be a significant blow to the FARC, which has lost what appears to be a major trafficker of arms.
However, the rebels get their weapons from a diverse range of sources. The group has also been reported to obtain arms from regional military stockpiles, as evidenced when the Colombian Army seized a rifle from a guerrilla in 2004 which had Peruvian Air Force markings. An inquiry found that it was part of a group of 165 that were supposedly destroyed, but in fact went missing from a military base in suspicious circumstances. The US has also accused high-level members of the Venezuela Armed Forces of carrying out a drugs-for-guns trade with the rebels.
More recently, Colombian police said the group smuggles military-grade explosives into the country from Ecuador, where there is an ample supply of explosives used for mining.
In addition, the FARC is reported to run clandestine arms factories where guerrillas assemble weapons.