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Colombia extradites paramilitary leader to US over rights groups protests

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National Police/Handout/Reuters

(Read caption) Extradited: Former paramilitary chief Herbert Veloza Garcia, also known as "HH," is escorted by police to the airport in Bogota, Colombia, Thursday. Veloza was extradited to the US on drug trafficking charges.

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Colombia has extradited Hebert Veloza Garcia, one of its "most feared" former paramilitary leaders, to the United States on drug-trafficking charges, despite requests from Colombian human rights groups that Mr. Veloza's extradition be delayed until he had more completely detailed the crimes committed under his command.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Veloza was flown to New York in US Drug Enforcement Administration custody Thursday, and will face trial on drug charges in the US. Veloza, also known as "HH," led paramilitary fighters in northern Colombia who killed hundreds of leftist guerilla sympathizers and displaced thousands more before being captured in 2007, but human rights groups believe that he has yet to reveal all the crimes in which he was involved.

Half a dozen Colombian human rights groups wrote a letter last month to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. asking that he delay the transfer of Veloza until after judicial proceedings here that focus on alleged paramilitary atrocities....
Seeking to avoid extradition, he became a highly cooperative witness before special tribunals set up to investigate paramilitary crimes. Paramilitary units were formed in the 1980s by cattlemen and farmers to defend against leftist guerrillas. However, they later branched out into drug trafficking and organized crime.
During dozens of appearances at the tribunals, Veloza acknowledged ordering massacres, personally killing more than 100 people, and participating in thousands of other crimes, including extortion and forced displacement of impoverished farmers.

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