Colombia's Defense Ministry has announced what it says is the country's biggest cocaine bust ever, with 17,500 pounds of coke seized from the nation's most notorious trafficking gang, CNN reports. The multiday operation targeted Clan Usuga, which has been described by the US Justice Department as Colombia's "largest and most influential [criminal group]." Per the AP, the more than 8 tons of coke was taken from a banana plantation in the northwestern department of Antioquia, with at least 50 commandos swooping into the compound, backed up by choppers. The drugs were said to be found in an underground tank buried 8 feet deep, covered by wood and cement, RT.com reports. At least three people were arrested in the sting; the BBC reports three suspects escaped.
"The biggest seizure of drugs in history. A hit against criminals," President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted Sunday, per NBC News. The drugs, with an estimated value of $240 million, were reportedly being prepped for transfer to the Caribbean, then the US. Although Clan Usuga, also known as Los Urabenos, is heavily involved in the drug market, it's also faced accusations of extortion, illegal mining, forced disappearances, and murder. Security officials have nabbed about 6,700 gang members over the past five years, leaving about 2,000 active members today, per local police. The US State Department has offered a $5 million reward for info leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Dario Antonio Usaga David, one of the leaders of the gang. Colombia is said to produce about 487 tons of cocaine annually, per the United Nations. (Is this Colombian woman the DEA's new El Chapo?)