Police Kill Head of Drug Cartel’s Assassins
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Police said they killed the head of the Medellin drug cartel’s army of assassins today in a shootout outside the house where he was hiding.
Brances Munoz, 33, was accused of orchestrating the kidnapping, torture and murder of hundreds of people. He also was wanted for terrorism, including the bombing of a Colombian airliner in 1989. More than 100 people aboard, including two Americans, were killed.
He tried to fight it out with dozens of police who surrounded his hideout in Medellin after receiving a tip to his whereabouts, the chief of Medellin police, Gen. Jairo Rodriguez, said in a radio interview.
The Colombian government had offered a $143,000 reward for information leading to Munoz’s capture. It was not know if the person who tipped police was seeking the reward.
Munoz and a brother escaped from prison in 1988 while awaiting trial on murder charges. The brother, Dandenys Munoz, is serving a seven-year prison term in New York. He was arrested in March and convicted of entering the country illegally and using a false identity.
The head of the Medellin cartel, Pablo Escobar, and nine of the most trusted employees of his multibillion dollar drug empire escaped from prison in July. Seven army soldiers were convicted in military courts on Tuesday of helping Escobar escape.
Seven of the cartel members who escaped with Escobar have surrendered. Escobar and the two others are still at large. Rewards for the three, offered by the U.S. and Colombian governments, total nearly $4 million.
The airliner bombing over Bogota in November 1989 was part of a successful war against the Colombian government to get it to stop extraditing cartel members to the United States.
Munoz also was wanted in a bombing in front of national investigative police headquarters in December 1989. The bomb killed more than 60 people in an failed attempt to assassinate the head of the investigative police, Miguel Antonio Maza. He later resigned under pressure from then-President Virgilio Barco, who was negotiating the surrender of cartel leaders.
The cartel believed the special police was going outside the law and killing cartel members, who have easily bribed their way out of jail in Colombia.