BOGOTA, Sept 28 (Reuters) - The ringleader of a shadowy Colombian terror group, who was exiled to Cuba in 1996 after agreeing to release the kidnapped brother of an ex-president, was arrested over the weekend in southwest Colombia, authorities said on Monday.
Police identified the man as Fredy Geofrey Llanos Moncayo and said he was the number two commander of JEGA, an extreme leftist urban guerrilla group linked to a string of political assassinations and kidnappings.
Police said Llanos Moncayo, who was believed to have returned to Colombia up to six months ago, was arrested early on Sunday in Popayan, near Colombia's border with Ecuador, and had a long list of criminal charges pending against him.
He masterminded the April 1996 kidnapping of Juan Carlos Gaviria, a brother of former president Cesar Gaviria, the current secretary-general of the Organisation of American States, according to National Police chief Gen. Rosso Jose Serrano.
Serrano helped negotiate Gaviria's release, along with two personal emissaries of Cuban President Fidel Castro, and was party to a controversial deal under which Llanos Moncayo was granted refuge in Cuba.
Police said it was not immediately clear how or why he had slipped back into his homeland, but heralded his arrest as one of the most important in Colombia in years.
``We're very pleased about this for a lot of reasons,'' Serrano told a news conference. ``This is the guy who negotiated, planned and carried out the kidnapping of Juan Carlos Gaviria and others that he has claimed responsibility for.''
According to police, Llanos Moncayo was also involved in the kidnapping of a brother of former president Belisario Betancur, a crime that occurred while Betancur held office in 1983.
Gaviria, an architect, was kidnapped in central Risaralda province and held for more than a month in a hellish underground hiding place smaller than a man's coffin.
Llanos Moncayo, who kidnapped Gaviria in the name of a group supposedly called ``Dignity for Colombia,'' threatened to kill him unless Congress voted to impeach then-president Ernesto Samper on drug corruption charges.
But Castro issued a last-minute appeal for Gaviria's life, and granted Llanos Moncayo and other suspected Jega members or their companions asylum on communist-ruled Cuba in exchange for Gaviria's release.
Serrano said it was not clear if other fugitive members of the group had returned to Colombia with Llanos Moncayo. Two of the seven people who went with Llanos Moncayo to Cuba on June 12, 1996 -- on a corporate jet provided by a millionaire friend of former president Gaviria -- were children.
The top leader of Jega, an enigmatic figure called Hugo Antonio Toro Restrepo but better known by the alias Comandante Bochica, has been held in the maximum security ward of Bogota's Modelo prison since early 1996.
Jega takes its name from Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, a popular political leader gunned down in Colombia 50 years ago.
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