Cocaine baron gunned down after a year on the run

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PABLO ESCOBAR, once leader of Colombia's largest drug cartel, was shot dead in Medellin yesterday 16 months after escaping from prison. He was killed together with a bodyguard as they tried to escape from the roof of a house where they had been trapped by members of a special 3,000-strong police and army force.

In recent months Escobar had become increasingly isolated as his chief lieutenants were killed or imprisoned. His wife and two children tried to take refuge in Germany last weekend but were deported. He remained the best-known drug smuggler in the world but more and more of his business was taken over by the rival Cali cartel.

Escobar's death was confirmed by Colombia's prosecutor-general. He was said to have been wearing jeans and to have done little to change his appearance since escaping from jail in July, 1992. The army said nobody would claim the dollars 8.7m (pounds 6m) reward for his arrest because he had been found by their intelligence service.

The ease with which Escobar had been able to get away from prison and his continued ability to elude the police and army had become a symbol of the corruption of all government institutions in Colombia. He had continued to run the Medellin cartel from inside his luxury jail.

Recently, however, he had been hunted not only by the army and police but by a paramilitary group known as PEPES - People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar - which combined police and members of the Cali cartel. Escobar's own organisation began to break up as he killed and tortured men who he believed were preparing to betray him.

His death is unlikely to reduce drug trafficking to the US. The fact that the entire annual US demand for cocaine requires only 150 to 175 tons of the drug underlines the difficulty of stopping smuggling.

A simple business, page 18