The reputed head of a violent gang created by late drug lord Pablo Escobar was detained Wednesday near the northwestern city of Medellin, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.

Ericson Vargas Cardona, alias "Sebastian," was captured in a police operation in Copacabana, a town north of Medellin.

"This is a mortal blow for the Oficina de Envigado (the gang headed by Vargas)," Santos told reporters at the presidential palace.

The president said the Medellin-based criminal outfit, whose structure had been weakened by previous arrests of some mid-level leaders, lost its kingpin with Vargas' capture.

Santos added that his administration will authorize Vargas' extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on drug-trafficking charges.

He described the Oficina de Envigado as "criminal, drug-trafficking, murderous" and said his government had offered a reward of 1.2 billion pesos ($672,159) for information leading to the arrest of Vargas, one of Colombia's most-wanted men.

Named after a city in Medellin's metropolitan area, Oficina de Envigado was founded in the 1980s by Escobar, who headed the now-defunct Medellin cartel until his death in a shootout with police in December 1993.

The gang, which ran the infamous capo's drug-trafficking business, later passed into the hands of Diego Fernando Murillo, a.k.a. "Don Berna," a paramilitary chief and drug trafficker who was extradited to the United States in May 2008.

Vargas' group has been fighting a brutal turf war against a rival faction headed by Maximiliano Bonilla, who was arrested late last year in a bi-national operation in Venezuela and subsequently extradited to the United States.

The Colombian president said the battle waged between Vargas and Bonilla for control of the Oficina de Envigado has generated "a type of wave of terror" that has done a great deal of damage.

The turf war has left dozens dead in the slums of Medellin and the surrounding province of Antioquia. EFE