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Colombia: Armed group attacks military base in Catatumbo May 31

Los Pelusos paramilitary group attacks soldiers at military base in Catatumbo region (Norte de Santander department) May 31; one soldier killed

TIMEFRAME expected from 6/2/2017, 12:00 AM until 6/2/2017, 11:59 PM (UTC). COUNTRY/REGION Tibú

Event

Suspected members of the EPL paramilitary group (Popular Liberation Army) - also known “Los Pelusos” - attacked soldiers at the Eslabones Military Base located in Tibú municipality (Catatumbo region; Norte de Santander department) on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 31. At least one soldier was killed in the ambush. 

Context

Paramilitary crime organizations (BACRIM) such as the 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. 

On a related note, according to a police memo reportedly leaked to a Colombian media outlet in mid-May, the country’s largest paramilitary and drug trafficking group - the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) - could be planning to carry out terrorist attacks in major Colombian cities, including Bogotá and Medellín. According to the memo, the group could perpetrate bombings or assassinations, likely targeting political or police/military targets. It remains unclear how real this threat is.

Advice

Due to the presence of a number of armed groups - including drug cartels, right-wing militias, local gangs, and left-wing paramilitaries (FARC, ELN) in addition to BACRIM - many Western governments advise against travel to various regions of the country, particularly rural zones.

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