Colombia nabs naval officer for selling drug maps

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BOGOTA, Oct 23 (Reuters) Colombian police have arrested a navy captain on suspicion he passed maps of anti-narcotics operations to traffickers, including details of foreign vessels patrolling for cocaine shipments, authorities said today.

The arrest of Capt Jorge Ahumada was the latest mark against Colombia's armed forces, which has received billions of dollars in aid from Washington to combat drug trafficking in the country, the top supplier of cocaine to US and European streets.

Naval intelligence and judicial police caught Ahumada on Monday night in the Caribbean city of Cartagena and also arrested two civilians. The three men face spying and conspiracy charges for suspected ties to drug traffickers.

''These arrests have broken up a network that was trafficking operational information,'' the attorney general's office and the Navy said in a joint statement.

The men are suspected of handing over navigation maps showing areas of anti-narcotics patrols, including those of Colombian, US and European navy vessels off Colombia's coast, an official at the prosecutor's office said.

One of the men, Eduardo Jaramillo, who is a suspected link between traffickers and the Navy, could be extradited to the United States, the statement said.

Violence from Colombia's conflict involving guerrillas, paramilitaries and traffickers has ebbed under President Alvaro Uribe, but the Andean country still exports more than 600 tonnes of cocaine a year, mainly to US and European markets.

Washington ally Uribe has extradited hundreds of drug suspects to the United States during his five years in government. And soldiers last month captured one of the world's top traffickers Diego ''Don Diego'' Montoya in Colombia.

But Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos acknowledged in July that cocaine traffickers and leftist rebels fighting Colombia's 4-decade-old conflict had managed to infiltrate senior levels of the armed forces and undermined operations.

Two army generals quit in August after four officers under their command were arrested on suspected ties to the Norte del Valle cartel, the country's largest cocaine trafficking gangs which authorities say was run by Montoya before his arrest.

Reuters AK VP0240

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