Colombia arrests Medellin 'gang hitman' Jesus Hernandez

Jesus David Hernandez in Medellin  on 15 May 2011 Hernandez had been sought since 2004

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Police in Colombia say they have captured a man accused of involvement in at least 50 murders.

Jesus David Hernandez Grisales, also known as Shorty, is accused of being the hitman for a criminal gang in Colombia's second city, Medellin.

He was on the run after being sentenced to 25 years in prison for murder.

The Colombian government has warned that criminal gangs have become the state's new enemy and promised to devote more resources to their capture.

Misleading prints

Hernandez, 34, was captured after a long-running investigation.

In 2004, Hernandez was sentenced in absentia to 25 years in prison for murder and illegal weapons possession and has been on the run from the authorities ever since.

Officers of Colombia's anti-narcotics squad said he had gone to great lengths to avoid being identified.

They said he carried a fake identity card, and had also had plastic surgery on his nose and ears.

Police said he even had his fingertips altered, so his prints did not match those they had on record.

But officials said that after spending 18 hours carrying out various tests, they had no doubt the man in their custody was Hernandez, whom they accuse of being the hitman for a criminal gang called The Office.

The gang extorts money from local businessmen and runs much of Medellin's drug market.

Dangerous enemy

Earlier this year, the Colombian government declared criminal gangs their new enemy.

Defence Minister Rodrigo Rivera told Colombian news magazine Semana in January that the gangs were a major challenge for the security forces.

Mr Rivera said these criminal organisations were increasingly taking control of drug-trafficking networks from Colombia's left-wing Farc guerrillas.

He said they were also responsible for many of the murders committed in major cities such as Medellin.

Hernandez is accused of being behind the disappearance in 2009 of three young women who were with a rival drug dealer when he was killed by Hernandez's gang.

Police believe the three women were also killed and their bodies thrown into the local river.

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