efe-epaBogota

Colombian authorities in the northwestern province of Antioquia captured eight members of the Gulf Clan drug gang, including one of the highest ranking members of that criminal organization, the Colombian Defense Ministry announced Monday.

The operation that caught one of the gang leaders identified as Jorge Ivan Arboleda, alias "Hernan," was a joint effort by police and the air force in the rural area of Yali municipality, Antioquia, according to a statement issued by Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas.

Hernan, a paramilitary who was demobilized in 2006 and moved on to join the Gulf Clan, previously known as the Usuga Clan and Los Urabeños, is charged with attacks on the police, including the one committed last Saturday against a patrol in the town of Santa Isabel de Remedios, where he left one officer wounded, according to the statement.

The gang largely run by Hernan, who was wanted for criminal conspiracy, operates in 18 municipalities of Antioquia.

Colombian authorities announced in recent days the existence of a plan orchestrated by criminal groups, including the Gulf Clan, to attack police and military units in reprisal for a police operation known as "the Pistol Plan."

According to Villegas, attacks by the Gulf Clan have left seven police and two civilians slain plus 41 wounded so far this year.

"All that was against 'the Pistol Plan,'" Minister Villegas said.

Another seven people were also arrested in the operation, including Hilda Osorio Peña, in charge of transporting arms, and Manuel Orrego Posada, alias "Correcaminos," whose job was to track the activities of security forces.

Those taken into custody were turned over to the Attorney General's Office, and must answer to charges of aggravated criminal conspiracy; trafficking, bearing and manufacturing arms and ammunition whose use is limited to the military; as well as drug trafficking and extortion.

The authorities also seized 47 hand grenades, 12 firearms, munitions, military uniforms, duffel bags, bulletproof vests and armbands.

"This is a highly dangerous arsenal that reveals the Gulf Clan's intentions to inflict extreme damage," Villegas said.