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Colombia News Alert

Colombia: ELN attacks continue /update 3

A dozen ELN attacks reported since ceasefire expired January 9, further violence likely; future of peace talks in doubt

12 Jan 11:02 AM UTC
TIMEFRAME expected from 1/10/2018, 12:00 AM until 1/13/2018, 11:59 PM (America/Bogota). COUNTRY/REGION Arauca, Boyacá, Casanare, Chocó, Cauca, Nariño, Norte de Santander
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Event

According to a January 11 statement by the Ministry of Defense, members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group had carried out at least 12 attacks in the country since the January 9 expiration of a bilateral ceasefire. Incidents include the assassination of a soldier in Arauquita (Arauca department); a grenade attack against patrolling soldiers in Arauquita; four attacks targeting oil infrastructure in Arauquita (Arauca),  Saravena, (Arauca), Cubará (Boyaca), and Aguazul (Casanare); and assaults in Orú (Norte de Santander) and Zarabena (Arauca). In total, one soldier has been killed and two injured.

Further attacks are feared in these departments, as well as in Chocó, Cauca, and Nariño, in the coming days and weeks. President Juan Manuel Santos has ordered the military to resume “full intensity” operations against the group.

Context

The attacks began the day a new round of peace talks was scheduled to begin between the ELN and the Colombia government. The ELN regularly ups its attacks ahead of talks as a way to improve its bargaining position; the group, which has not claimed responsibility for the recent incidents, has stated that it is still interested in going ahead with the negotiations. However, President Santos ordered his chief negotiator to withdraw from peace talks, at least temporarily, on January 10, also potentially a bargaining strategy. There are also fears that the ELN may have used the 102-day truce to shore up its fighting capabilities. It is unclear if or when the talks will resume.  

The ELN - the country's last remaining rebel group following the demobilization of the FARC - is believed to have some 2000 fighters spread out over the departments of Nariño, Arauca, Boyacá, Norte de Santander, La Guajira, Cesar, Bolívar, Casanare, Santander, Chocó, Cauca, and Putumayo, particularly in rural zones. Peace talks have been ongoing since February 2017.

Advice

Individuals in Colombia are advised to monitor developments to the situation. 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 - some Western governments advise against travel to various parts of the country.

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