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Curacao Marred By Violent Slayings

September 1, 2002

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PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (AP) _ Colombian assassins are behind a series of execution-style slayings in Curacao, which has seen drug seizures soar in recent years, the justice minister of the Netherlands Antilles said Saturday.

Police last week captured a Colombian man who admitted to carrying out several killings for drug gangs in his homeland, and authorities were trying to find a second Colombian suspect, Justice Minister Norberto Ribeiro said Friday night.

A third suspect had already returned to Colombia, he said.

Police suspect the three, and possibly others, committed up to 28 killings on the Caribbean island since the beginning of this year. Most of the victims were riddled with bullets, and 10 of the 11 people killed in the past two months were Colombian, he said.

``These guys come with a mission, complete it and leave,″ Ribeiro said.

Police arrested Luis Antonio Yazagaray Acosta, 41, after raiding his Curacao apartment. The raid set off a shootout that left two officers with gunshot wounds to their legs and arms. The Colombian was also shot in the shoulder.

Curacao is one of five Caribbean territories in the Netherlands Antilles, which also includes St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

The Antillean government pledged in May to establish zero tolerance for drug trafficking, responding to a sharp increase in drug seizures at airports and along the hard-to-patrol coasts.

Customs seized 1,490 pounds of cocaine in 2001, compared with 385 pounds the year before. The drugs came from South American countries and were bound for Europe and the United States. Colombia is the world’s main supplier of cocaine.

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