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Colombia claims top FARC leader is dead

Colombia’s armed forces killed one of the FARC’s top leaders who was responsible for the guerrilla organization’s Pacific drug trafficking operations and was the group’s primary contact with Mexican cartels, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said Thursday.

Jose “Mincho” Neftali was the commander of the FARC’s Western front and his operations, which funneled drugs through Central America, generated about 30 percent of all FARC revenue, Pinzón said.

Neftali and four other FARC members were killed in a bombing raid in an area called Las Juntas, less than 50 miles west of Cali. Four other alleged FARC members were wounded and captured in the operation.

Neftali had been in the guerrilla group for more than four decades and had 10 arrest warrants pending, including for terrorism, homicide and kidnapping. The FARC did not immediately react to the news on the Anncol website, where its often posts communiqués.

The blow comes as the FARC has been stepping up its attacks before municipal elections at month’s end.

President Juan Manuel Santos called Neftali an “emblematic character” who had been close to FARC founder Manuel “Tirofijo” Marulanda.

“That’s why I’m celebrating that the operation against this bandit was successful,” he said.

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