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Colombia: ELN and BACRIM attacks in recent days

Ambush, roadside bombs, and kidnappings attributed to ELN and EPL armed groups in Norte de Santander and Cauca

TIMEFRAME expected from 6/28/2017, 12:00 AM until 6/28/2017, 11:59 PM (America/Bogota). COUNTRY/REGION Norte de Santander, Cauca


On the evening of Monday, June 26, a national police truck was ambushed by gunmen, believed to be members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, in Cauca department. At least two police officers were killed in the attack, which occurred in La Vega municipality.

On a related note, a rancher who had been kidnapped 18 days prior in Chitagá (Norte de Santander department) was released overnight June 26-27. It remains unclear what group was behind the kidnapping, but the ELN is suspected. His release came a few days after the release of two Dutch journalists, who were kidnapped by the ELN earlier in the week, also in Norte de Santander. A total of 22 kidnappings have been reported in Norte de Santander since the beginning of the year, the majority attributed to the ELN and the EPL crime organization (“Los Pelusos”).

Finally, at least three explosive devices have been discovered in the Norte de Santander, on the road linking the municipality of Ocaña with the departmental capital Cúcuta. Local authorities are on the lookout for more bombs. The EPL is believed to be behind the planting of the devices, likely in revenge for recent police operations against criminal activity in the region.


ELN activity, including these and various other similar attacks carried out in recent months, do not appear to be jeopardizing ongoing peace talks between the group and the government, launched in February 2017. ELN, the country's largest rebel group after the currently demobilizing FARC, is active in various areas of the country including Arauca, Boyacá, Norte de Santander, La Guajira, Cesar, Bolívar, Casanare, Santander, Chocó, Cauca, Nariño, and Putumayo departments, particularly in rural zones.

Meanwhile, paramilitary crime organizations (BACRIM) such as Los Pelusos have replaced leftist guerrillas as the most serious armed threat in Colombia today, and have become increasingly active in recent months. These groups are involved in a variety of illicit activities, including drug-trafficking, smuggling, illegal mining, extortion, and assassinations. As the demobilization of the FARC guerrilla group continues, BACRIM groups are expanding into the newly vacated territories, leading to violence against security forces and local communities as well as turf warfare. 


Due to the presence of a number of armed groups - including organized crime groups, drug cartels, right-wing militias, and local gangs in addition to the ELN - many Western governments advise against travel to various regions of the country (particularly rural zones), with the notable exceptions of the northern Caribbean regions and central areas (including Bogotá).

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