Colombia detains paramilitary accused of killing 36

Colombia has detained a former paramilitary wanted for the massacre of dozens of peasants in 2000, and who recently threatened to drive more from their land, police said Friday.

Hernan Cantillo, 38, for whom an international arrest warrant had been issued, was apprehended in Colombia's northern town of Galapa.

Cantillo is thought to have been a member of the extreme-right militant group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) for 20 years.

Founded in the 1980s, the AUC is believed to be responsible for the death of thousands of people.

Authorities have accused Cantillo of the November 22, 2000 massacre of 36 people in the town of Sitionuevo, northern Colombia, under the direction of an AUC boss.

He is also accused of murdering a sociologist in September 2004.

Under the pretext of fighting against communist guerrillas, AUC members became known for driving peasants from their land.

Although the group has been officially demobilized since 2006, a large number of its fighters joined criminal gangs that continued its activities.

Before joining up with right-wing AUC militants, Cantillo had fought for the two main Colombian left-wing groups -- the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

In recent years he has also been linked to a drug trafficking group.

Threats and crime against peasants displaced by violence in Colombia increased after a 2011 law restored their land to them.

The law sought to return approximately two million hectares (7,733 square miles) to some 400,000 families that had been displaced by force.

Last year, 37 human rights activists and peasant leaders were assassinated in Colombia, according to a report by the Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.