BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian police killed the leader of a powerful drug cartel that supplied tons of cocaine to Mexican gangs, the government said on Sunday.
Police killed Juan de Dios Usuga, the head of the Urabenos criminal gang in the northwestern department of Choco, near the border with Panama.
Usuga had a bounty on his head of $2.5 million and was wanted by the United States for drug trafficking.
"The police put down in Choco alias Usuga, head of the Urabenos and captured various of his accomplices. What a good start to the year," President Juan Manuel Santos said in a message on Twitter.
The Urabenos are one of Colombia's main gangs, along with Los Rastrojos, Los Paisas and Las Aguilas Negras.
Colombia is one of the world's top producers of cocaine, and criminal gangs made up of former right-wing paramilitary groups and old cartels have become a major emerging threat to the nation of 46 million people.
In November, Colombia and neighboring Venezuela announced the capture of one of the region's most-wanted drug traffickers, who was head of the Paisas gang.
While bloodshed from Colombia's long guerrilla and drug wars has dropped since a U.S.-backed offensive began more than a decade ago, bombings, murders and combat continue, mainly in Colombia's frontier areas.
The decline in violence has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment mainly to Colombia's mining and oil sectors, which has allowed the country to boost crude and coal output to historic highs.
(Reporting By Jack Kimball and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Stacey Joyce)