MARIPI, Colombia – Colombian troops raided a sprawling clandestine drug laboratory run by a paramilitary group that was capable of producing 10 tons of cocaine a month, officials said Tuesday.
"This is the biggest cocaine-processing factory we've found this year, it contained a large quantity of chemicals used to process the drugs," Gen. Gustavo Matamoros (search), commander of the army's 5th Division, told The Associated Press.
In a separate operation, the military announced Tuesday that it had seized six tons of marijuana allegedly belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (search), or FARC, the country's main leftist rebel group.
The drugs were discovered Monday wrapped in hundreds of red packages in southwestern Cauca state and later shown to reporters at a military base in the nearby city of Cali (search).
Workers at the cocaine factory escaped and no arrests were made during the raid Monday in a remote area near the town of Maripi, 50 miles north of Bogota, Matamoros said.
The drug lab, built about four months ago, was concealed under a roof made of sugar cane stalks and plastic sheeting and had enough beds to sleep at least 35 workers.
Matamoros said the lab belonged to paramilitary faction, but did not provide details.
Outlawed paramilitary groups were created two decades ago as a vigilante force to attack leftist rebels that have been waging war on the Colombian government. Both the paramilitaries and leftist rebels use drug trafficking to finance their campaigns.
The paramilitary umbrella group, the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, is involved in a two-year-old peace process, but the organization remains active in illegal activities in various parts of the country.