By Dialogo September 01, 2010 A former paramilitary leader, accused of participating in the massacre of sixty-nine peasants in a town in northern Colombia, was arrested by agents of the central intelligence bureau on August 30, after having been sought for several years, the authorities announced. The director of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), Felipe Muñoz, said that the arrest of Luis Francisco Robles, alias “Amaury,” took place in a rural area of the municipality of Astrea (department of El Cesar), in the northern part of the country. Twelve arrest warrants were open for Robles, and he was a target of twenty-five investigations for aggravated homicide, criminal conspiracy, multiple homicide, robbery, illicit recruitment, forced displacement, and the illegal carrying of arms restricted to military use, among other offenses. “Amaury,” a former army special-forces soldier, joined the paramilitary squads and came to lead around 250 fighters belonging to these illegal armed groups, Muñoz revealed. “He planned and carried out the murder of five DAS detectives, who were tortured and murdered in Magangué, Bolívar, in 2002,” the security agency’s director said. “The individual arrested is believed to have actively participated, in February 2000, in the massacre that took place in the district of Villa del Rosario, in the jurisdiction of the municipality of El Carmen de Bolívar, better known as the massacre of El Salado, where sixty-nine people were murdered,” Muñoz explained. According to the authorities, Robles was organizing an illegal armed group in order to dedicate himself to drug-trafficking activities. The paramilitaries are armed groups that sprang up in the 1980s, financed by landowners, ranchers, businessmen, and drug traffickers for defense against attacks from leftist guerrilla groups. These squads, accused of massacring thousands of civilians in their fight against the guerrillas, succeeded in expelling the leftist rebels from several regions of the country amid bloody clashes. The paramilitaries, who relied on the support of some members of the armed forces, consolidated military and political bastions in several regions. In 2003 then-president Alvaro Uribe began controversial peace negotiations that allowed more than 31,000 paramilitary fighters to lay down their arms and be reintegrated into civilian life. However, the majority of the fighters who entered this process subsequently returned to illegal activities, forming armed groups in the service of drug traffickers. The majority of the paramilitary leaders, accused of violating the peace agreement and being involved in drug-trafficking activities from the prison where they were serving short sentences, were extradited to the United States by Uribe.