Colombian drug lord killed in Venezuela

Feb. 2, 2008 at 7:58 PM

MERIDA, Venezuela, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Wilber "Soap" Varela, reputedly one of Colombia's biggest drug traffickers, has been found dead in Venezuela, it was reported Saturday.

Officials confirmed the body found in a holiday cabin in Merida was that of Varela, leader of the Norte del Valle cocaine-smuggling gang, the BBC reported. It appeared Varela, the target of a $5 million reward offered for his capture, had been killed by his own men, the British network said.

Authorities allege the Norte del Valle cartel had followed in the footsteps of the Medellin cartel of Pablo Escobar, and was responsible for shipping thousands of tons of cocaine into the United States and Europe.

Authorities say two new traffickers -- known only as "06" and "Red Shirt" -- have already moved into the territory vacated by the earlier gangs.

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