Gunmen crashed a party at a ranch early Monday and massacred Colombia's emerald czar, 16 bodyguards and a friend in an attack that police said was linked to the brutal war for control of the world's richest emerald mines.
Gilberto Molina, who had escaped three previous attempts on his life, including a bazooka attack on a Bogota villa, was among the 18 people killed by a band of about 50 uniformed attackers, Police Chief Miguel Gomez Padilla told reporters.
Although primarily an emerald dealer, Molina's name had been associated with drug trafficking, and he was considered a partner of Rodrigo Gonzales Gacha, known as "The Mexican," one of the Medellin drug-smuggling cartel's three alleged chiefs.
Colombia is the world's top producer of fine emeralds, with a production estimated at $200 million a year, although at least half of the gems are illegally exported. Hundreds of people have been killed in the battle to control the mines.