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Spanish police arrest suspected Colombian crime lord

Police in Alicante have seized a 40-year-old believed to be the head of a Colombian drug cartel's military wing. Hernan Alonso Villa, known as "El Raton" (the mouse), is wanted in Colombia on murder charges, and others.

Spanish police said on Saturday that they had arrested one of Colombia's most wanted criminals.

Police identified a 40-year-old man arrested in Alicante as Hernan Alonso Villa, saying he commanded an international drug-trafficking ring of 200 people which has collectively been responsible for 400 murders.

Villa, nicknamed "El Raton" or "The Mouse," was carrying over 40,000 euros ($54,100) in cash when he was arrested, the Spanish Interior Ministry said, adding that the money was believed to be tied to drug trafficking and contract killings.

"He took a number of security measures in an attempt to avoid arrest, including constantly changing addresses, changing telephones and using different false identities," the ministry said.

Spanish and Colombian police had jointly hunted the suspect for around one month. Villa is subject to a Colombian extradition order, facing charges of homicide, forced displacement and manufacturing and carrying of illegal weapons.

"El Raton" heads a network called the Office of the Envigado, made up mostly of former members of paramilitary groups disbanded between 2003 and 2006. Colombia is a major exporter of cocaine; Villa's suspected network is believed to have coordinated the export of the drug to Spain, the United States and the Netherlands.

msh/ng (dpa, Reuters)