Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the capture in the southwestern part of the country of a suspected leader of the criminal gang Los Rastrojos, who is believed to have committed more than 30 murders, and of another 17 members of that organization.

Santos was talking about alias "Picante," arrested at a luxury estate in Dagua municipality of Valle del Cauca province, in an operation carried out Friday by police and the federal Attorney General's Office.

Authorities are investigating Picante for at least 32 homicides, most of them in the last 18 months in the town of Tulua, where several dismembered bodies were found.

The arrest of the other gang members took place in the cities of Tulua, Buga, Andalucia and Cali.

Among them were the suspected criminals alias "El Zarco," "Chagualo," "Chinga" and "El Tuerto," Colombian national police chief Gen. Rodolfo Palomino said.

According to the president, the authorities nabbed "a cruel, pitiless outlaw," and said the authorities are ordered to continue fighting them because "no government, no state, can fail in its duties or allow itself to get weak." EFE