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Former Pablo Escobar associate arrested on drugs charges in Colombia

By Graham Keeley

MADRID (Reuters) - A suspected drug trafficker and former associate of the late Colombian drugs baron Pablo Escobar has been arrested at his luxury villa in the city of Medellin following an international operation, Spanish police said on Saturday.

The detained man is suspected of being the nexus between Medellin-based traffickers and the European crime groups Ndrangheta - based in Italy - and Mocro Mafia, which operates from the Netherlands, police said in a statement.

"He was known by police authorities for having collaborated in the past with a historical leader of (the Medellin Cartel) between the 80s and 90s," the police statement said.

A police source with knowledge of the investigation identified the man as Julio Andres Murillo Figueroa, and named the cartel leader he had links to as Escobar.

The operation leading to the suspect's arrest began after an exchange of information between the Spanish National Police's fugitive unit and their counterparts in Colombia, the statement said.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Helen Popper)