Sombra the drug-sniffing police dog is famous in Colombia. Now, smugglers have put a bounty on her head.
Sombra, Colombiaâs famous drug-sniffing dog, has a bounty on her head from the countryâs most powerful drug lord. (YouTube/El Tiempo) July 27 at 4:44 AM Email the author
Like a cocaine-fueled Homeric epic, Colombiaâs long tragic battle with the drug cartels has produced countless heroes and villains. But one figure cutting across the countryâs current narco battlefield, a name drawing praise and hate alike, is actually a 6-year-old German shepherd you can find trotting through the countryâs airports.
Sombra â" âshadowâ in English â" is a drug-detection dog with the Colombian National Police. Over the past few years, her radar nose has led to mo re than 200 arrests and the seizure of at least nine tons of illicit drugs. That success has turned the dog into something of a folk hero in a country consumed by ongoing bloodshed piled on top of a long legacy of drug violence. The Colombian press has even dubbed Sombra âthe terrorâ of drug traffickers.
But Sombra is so good at her job that Colombiaâs dominant drug crew is retaliating. Theyâve put a price on the dogâs head.
According to Colombiaâs RCN Radio, police intelligence recently learned about the bounty set by the UrabeÃ±os, also known as the Gulf Clan. Reports vary on the price tag for killing the dog, between 20 and 200 million Colombian pesos â" or about $7,000 and $70,000 in U.S. currency. But the threat is serious enough for the National Police to take extra precautions for Sombraâs security.
âThe fact they want to hurt Sombra and offer such a high reward for her capture or death shows the impact sheâs had on their profits,â a police representative told the Telegraph.
Sombra came to Colombian law enforcement from a kennel in Antioquia, the region of the country thatâs home to Medellin, the springboard for Colombiaâs fearsome cartels of the 1980s and 1990s. Outfitted in a neon-yellow vest, the dog is tasked with thrusting her trained snout into luggage and packages in Colombiaâs ports and airports along the countryâs Gulf Coast.
RCN Radio reports her first major bust was in March 2016, when Sombra nosed her way toward a container of banana boxes that secretly held 2,958 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride. The shipment was on its way to Belgium.
In May 2017, Sombra discovered another shipment heading to Belgium containing 1.1 tons of cocaine. Last June, she led police to an even larger find â" 5.3 tons of cocaine, the BBC reported. Later, she discovered four more tons secreted in an auto parts shipment.
In total, her busts have resulted in 245 arrests, Colonel Carlos Fernando Villareal told RCN Radio. Sombraâs efforts for law enforcement have twice earned her the Wilson Quintero medal, an honor awarded for critical contributions to the fight against drug trafficking.
Sombraâs accomplishments have made her the cuddly face of Colombiaâs anti-drug effort.
Sheâs been featured on local television. In airports, the dog is asked to pose for selfies with admirers. And the narcotics police regularly post about her accomplishments on Twitter. This month, police used Sombra to specifically call out the UrabeÃ±osâ alleged notorious chief, a former paramilitary guerrilla turned drug trafficker named Dairo Antonio Ãsuga. In Colombia, heâs known as Otoniel.
âIn the last three years sheâs become the torment of âOtoniel,âââ a recent tweet stated.
The dog can handle the high profile, h er owners have said.
âSombra is a very friendly, calm canine, and for that reason, she has no problem approaching children or people who want to say hello to her,â Oscar Favian Solarte, head of the anti-narcotics division, told El Tiempo. âSheâs playful, and in fact that is part of the development of her job. Not only to look for caches of illicit drugs but also, after her work is done, to de-stress, so to speak.â
But all that attention has put Sombra in the UrabeÃ±osâ crosshairs.
Originally a paramilitary outfit, one of the many armed groups trading bullets in Colombiaâs long national struggle, the UrabeÃ±os are now the countryâs largest criminal organization and control much of the drug trade, according to InSight Crime. Consolidating power by taking on all rivals, the groupâs power base spreads along Colombiaâs northwest coast. According to InSight, the group pulls money from various criminal activities, such as extortion, illegal mining a nd smuggling.
Otoniel remains at large and in control of the vast organization.
In response to the bounty on Sombraâs life, General Jorge Nieto, head of the national police, has ordered the dog transferred to Bogotaâs El Dorado International Airport, outside the UrabeÃ±osâ territory on the coast. According to the Telegraph, additional officers will now accompany Sombra on her rounds.
Samantha Schmidt contributed to this report.
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