By Luis Jaime Acosta - Friday August 10 1:53 PM ET
BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - Colombian troops on Friday launched an
offensive against leftist guerrillas in reprisal over rebel attacks that
killed five people and injured 39 others.
The fighting followed the government's suspension of peace efforts with the
country's second largest guerrilla force, the National Liberation Army
Backed by helicopter gunships, some 2,000 soldiers of an elite battalion
were sent to northern Bolivar province, a stronghold of the Cuban-inspired
ELN, the army said.
The 5,000-member ELN on Thursday detonated bombs and set off a car bomb in
two towns in northern Colombia in its first major attacks since President
Andres Pastrana broke off peace contacts on Tuesday.
In a separate incident on Friday, six ELN rebels died in clashes with the
army in the northern province of Magdalena, the army said.
The ELN and the government had been engaged in dialogue off-and-on since
1999. Colombia is mired in a 37-year-old war pitting leftist guerrillas
armies against the military and outlawed right-wing paramilitary groups.
Pastrana, who is struggling to end a war that has claimed 40,000 civilian
lives in the last decade, suspended talks with the ELN after accusing the
group of being ``obstinate.''
The ELN, which has suffered heavy military losses in recent years at the
hands of the army and paramilitary militias, responded that Pastrana was
paying lip service to peace and said hopes of a deal were ``almost dead.''
Fearing an upsurge of ELN attacks, Colombian authorities have stepped up
security in cities and airports.
The ELN, a 1960s-style guerrilla force fighting for socialist reforms,
routinely targets the Andean country's key oil and energy infrastructure.
The group also has a penchant for spectacular kidnappings, such as the
hijacking of 41 commercial airline passengers and the abduction of 160
churchgoers in Cali, both in 1999.
Pastrana, who has bet his career on ending the war, has been engaged in
peace talks with a larger Marxist rebel group, the FARC, for 2-1/2 years.
The talks have failed to halt violence and the 17,000-member FARC continues
to attack the army.
On Thursday, six soldiers and a civilian were killed after FARC rebels blew
up a military vehicle in Tolima province.
Saturday August 11, 6:04 AM
Deadly days in Colombia following break down of peace talks
BOGOTA, Aug 10 (AFP) -
The Colombian army said Friday it would send 1,200 troops into northern
Bolivar department, headquarters of the country's second largest rebel
group, three days after President Andres Pastrana suspended peace talks with
the group, saying they lacked will to advance negotiations.
Dozens of Colombians have been killed or injured since dialogue broke
down -- but not all of the incidents have been attributed to the
4,500-strong National Liberation Army, or ELN.
A 300-strong rebel unit stormed the impoverished village of Lloro, 540
kilometers (336 miles) northwest of Bogota in Choco department, National
Police chief General Luis Gilibert said.
Gilibert said 30 police officers in the village backed by military airplanes
repelled the attackers, with no police casualties.
Choco governor David Mosquera told reporters one civilian was injured and a
police station was destroyed in the attack, which he attributed to the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Colombia's largest rebel
The 4,500-strong ELN kidnapped seven people in two separate actions in
northern Bolivar department, on the Caribbean coast, and in Norte de
Santander department, on the border with Venezuela, army sources said.
The army said it had killed six ELN rebels in San Jose de la Bodega, in
Authorities were investigating who was responsible for the shooting deaths
of eight farmers overnight Thursday to Friday in the towns of Algeciras and
Pitalito, 450 kilometers (280 miles) southwest of Bogota, in Huila
department, where right-wing paramilitaries are also active.
A car bomb killed two people in Gramaloto, northeast of Bogota. Army sources
said the ELN was to blame.
The ELN declared a three-day "armed strike" in the oil-producing Arauca
department of northeast Colombia, burning vehicles, blocking roads and
saying any civilian who did not observe the strike would be considered a
Seven soldiers, one civilian and at least 10 guerrillas were killed when
FARC rebels ambushed a military convoy some 250 kilometres (155 miles)
southeast of Bogota, General Hernan Cadavid said. Eight soldiers and five
civilians were wounded.
A blast Wednesday in the village of San Francisco, northwest of the capital,
killed three children and injured 42 people.
Friday August 10, 11:39 PM
Colombian rebel group steps up attacks after failure of peace deal
BOGOTA, Aug 10 (AFP) -
Leftist rebels with the National Liberation Army stepped up their attacks
Friday after dropping all dialogue with the Colombian government, declaring
a three-day "armed strike" in the oil-producing region of northeast
"We announce that we have declared an 'armed strike' of three days in
Arauca, and we are not responsible for people or vehicles traveling in the
department," the rebel group known as ELN said in a communique.
The ELN, the country's second-largest rebel group, has stepped up attacks
since President Andres Pastrana's surprise announcement to suspend peace
talks with the group.
The group was blamed for a car bomb Thursday that killed two people in
Gramaloto, northeast of Bogota, and a blast Wednesday in the village of San
Francisco, northwest of the capital, in which three children were killed and
42 people injured.
Meanwhile, seven soldiers, one civilian and at least 10 guerrillas were
killed when rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ambushed a
military convoy some 250 kilometres (155 miles) southeast of Bogota, General
Hernan Cadavid said.
Eight soldiers and five civilians, including three children, were wounded in
the ambush Thursday, Cadavid said.
Cadavid said the soldiers belonged to a unit sent to deal with a rebel
offensive in Cajamarca, in the Tolima region.
He said some of the soldiers were shot in the head as they lay wounded on
the ground. The civilian killed in the clash was driving one of the military
trucks, he added.
Between 10 and 15 rebels were killed in the ensuing combat, the general
Colombia's decades-long civil war has killed some 200,000 since 1964, mostly
Thursday August 9 4:43 PM ET
Guerrillas Cited in Colombia Blast
By MARGARITA MARTINEZ, Associated Press Writer
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - An explosion killed three children and injured 35
people in a northern Colombian town Thursday in what officials called a
guerrilla attack in retaliation for the government's decision to suspend
Police blamed the leftist National Liberation Army, or ELN, for the pre-dawn
explosion in the town of San Francisco, 110 miles northwest of Bogota. The
blast killed two sisters, ages 7 and 8, and their cousin, a 10-year-old boy.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast, which would be the first
ELN attack since President Andres Pastrana suspended contacts with the group
on Tuesday that were aimed at starting negotiations. Pastrana said the ELN
had been inflexible in its demand for the government to cede a large swath
of land in northern Colombia as the site for peace talks.
``Their only contribution to the country is violence,'' Pastrana said after
Television images from San Francisco, in northwestern Antioquia state,
showed a huge dirt crater and caved-in homes near a police station. Police
said the rebels apparently intended to bomb the station, but it was barely
touched by the blast, which instead damaged 25 houses nearby.
``They put an explosive charge underground, but they miscalculated. Instead
of the police station blowing up, it affected the families and nearby
homes,'' said Antioquia state police spokeswoman Catherine Ernot. ``It is a
retaliation for the breakdown in the peace talks.''
The ELN also staged an attack against the nearby village of Granada early
Thursday, but there were no injuries or damage.
Observers have feared an upsurge in fighting since Pastrana's decision to
break off contacts. When talks with the ELN have broken down in the past,
the group has retaliated with kidnappings, highway blockades and attacks
against the electricity infrastructure.
Colombia's 37-year civil war pits leftist guerrillas from the 5,000-strong
ELN and the much larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC,
against the government and right-wing paramilitary groups.
Saturday, 11 August, 2001, 23:47 GMT 00:47 UK
Colombian troops capture rebels
Three children died this week in rebel attacks
Colombian armed forces have captured 11 rebels from the country's second
biggest guerrilla force, the National Liberation Army (ELN), a military
The men were caught in the city of Cartagena as the army continued its
offensive against the ELN following the breakdown of peace talks earlier
President Andres Pastrana broke government contacts with the guerrillas on
Tuesday, accusing them of intransigence.
President Pastrana: Toughened stance with ELN
The rebels responded with bomb attacks, one of which killed three children.
The funerals of the victims took place in the north-eastern town of San
Francisco, where more than 40 people were also injured in an explosion.
The BBC's correspondent in Colombia, Jeremy McDermott, says if the town's
inhabitants are looking for retribution, it seems President Andres Pastrana
is the man to deliver it.
Long criticised for being too soft on the guerrillas, Mr Pastrana has
unleashed a military and political offensive against them.
Some 2,000 men from the elite Rapid Deployment Force have been sent to
Bolivar province - an ELN stronghold.
The government has also revoked the rebels' political status has been
revoked, and arrest warrants for guerrillas leaders have been renewed.
This week's violence was sparked by the Colombian Government's suspension of
peace talks in Venezuela with the ELN guerrillas.
The fighting has killed more than 40,000 people in the last decade
President Pastrana accused the rebels of refusing to move during talks aimed
at opening formal peace negotiations.
Our correspondent says the offensive against the ELN may be a way to give
the army free rein, while preserving the peace process with the biggest
rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Although the army has long argued the ELN can be defeated militarily, the
latest rebels attacks show the ELN is unlikely to bow down without a fight.
Colombian military captures 11 rebels during offensive after peace talks
BOGOTA, Colombia, Aug. 11 Colombia's military said it captured 11 rebels
from the nation's smaller guerrilla army on Saturday during a nationwide
operation against the group following a rupture in peace talks.
The 11 fighters from the National Liberation Army, or ELN, were seized in
the coastal city of Cartagena, navy Vice Adm. Fernando Roman told Radionet
Roman said the combatants among them a commander were responsible for
extortion, bombings, and kidnappings in the northern region.
At least 2,000 soldiers were also searching for rebels throughout the ELN's
stronghold in the southern region of Bolivar state, said army Capt. Jorge
Florez. Troops were mounting smaller operations in eastern Arauca province.
''There are orders for operations throughout the whole country,'' Florez
President Andres Pastrana broke government contacts with the 6,000-strong
group, the nation's second largest, on Tuesday. He accused its leaders of
refusing to budge during talks aimed at opening formal peace negotiations.
The ELN's leadership blamed the breakup of the peace talks on the
government, saying it lacked the political will to pursue peace.
Talks with the nation's largest rebel army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia, have yielded few results.
Two days after talks broke, presumed ELN fighters bombed northern San
Francisco town, killing three children and injuring at least 35 people. Six
ELN combatants died in clashes on Friday with troops in northern La Bodega.
Leftist guerrillas are fighting the government and a right-wing paramilitary
army in a 37-year civil conflict.
(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
© 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Senior Associate, Demilitarization Program
Center for International Policy
1755 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 312
Washington DC 20036
+202-232-3317 fax 232-3440