NEWS

Colombia Crime Boss, Gang Surrender

12/24/2011 02:00 EST | Updated 02/23/2012 05:12 EST

The boss of one of Colombia's biggest crime gangs has turned himself in to authorities along with more than 280 members of his armed group.

Jose (Caracho) Lopez Montero surrendered on Friday, authorities said. A total of 283 other members of his group also turned themselves in on Thursday and Friday, prosecutor Nestor Armando Novoa said.

They belong to a group called the Popular Anticommunist Revolutionary Army. Despite its name, the group does not have a clear political stance as the country's right-wing militias have in the past. Its members are accused of drug trafficking and killings.

The reasons for their mass surrender were unclear.

Lopez had told Colombian news media recently that he is "tired of the war." He faces charges including conspiracy, and could face additional charges as the head of the armed group, Novoa said.

Lopez, 40, took over as the group's leader after his predecessor was killed by security forces in December 2010. The former boss, Pedro (Cuchillo) Guerrero, was previously the leader of a right-wing militia group that had broken up.

Lopez and others turned themselves in to authorities in the city of Villavicencio, about 75 kilometres southeast of Bogota.

It was one of the largest mass surrenders of criminal suspects in Colombia in recent years. The country's authorities have not said if they initial discussions with the group to work out any terms of their surrender.

Novoa said more than 300 prosecutors, investigators and social workers were identifying the men and going over their cases. He said that all who are wanted for crimes will face charges.