BOGOTA - Colombian police arrested 11 gang members suspected of using human mules to smuggle narcotics to Asia, charging four of them with murder after a courier died of a cocaine overdose, officials said Wednesday.
Authorities said capsules of narcotics were ingested or strapped to the bodies of the mules who were sent to Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Thailand.
One of the smugglers died in the southern city of Leticia, but the circumstances of the death were not clear.
"Four of the suspects were charged with murder following the death of a human courier in Leticia who died due to acute cocaine intoxication," prosecutors said in a statement.
The group's members are charged with trafficking, manufacturing and possessing narcotics, officials said.
The arrests took place Tuesday as part of "Operation Rising Sun," the police crackdown on drug smuggling in Colombia, one of the world's top narcotics exporters.
The main leaders of the gang were arrested in the western city of Cali, where police said the drug smuggling scheme was based.
The gang members trained mules to ingest drugs and also produced passports and visas for the couriers to travel abroad.
Police seized 500 capsules of drugs and also a machine for manufacturing pills at the time of the arrests.
Colombia and neighbouring Peru are considered the world's leading cocaine producers.