ELN attacks increase following ceasefire expiration in Colombia

In the wake of the end of a three-month ceasefire agreement between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN), a series of violent incidents attributed to the guerrilla have been reported across the country, counting attacks on oil pipelines and military bases.

Colombia has faced decades of conflicts against two leftist guerrilla organizations: the ELN and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). After more than four years of negotiations, the government signed an ultimate treaty with the FARC on November 2016, converting the group into a political party. However, peace talks with ELN militants have yet failed to reach a lasting ceasefire agreement.  

Funded by drug trafficking, illegal mining, extortion and kidnapping, most of the ELN attacks address the economic infrastructure of Colombia. On 10 January, the State-run company Ecopetrol confirmed three bombings on an oil pipeline in Arauca Department. At the end of January, more bomb attacks were reported at a police station in Barranquilla killing five officers and leaving several injured.

In February, a nationwide three-day armed strike was stated in order to protest the freezing of peace negotiations. A bombing attack was also accounted at the Amarillo Bridge over the Simana River, cutting off access to vehicles between the country’s Atlantic coast and its inland. Another pipeline attack was reported in North of Santander Department. All the incidents were attached to the ELN.

In response to the threat, the Colombian government has recently suspended peace talks with the ELN and has decided to intensify military action against it. Thereafter, it is highly likely the guerrilla will continue plotting offensives throughout Colombia with little or no warning, targeting government and economic infrastructure facilities, public and touristic sites and transportation hubs, among others.

During this period, GWS has provided real-time security alerts on the incidents and will continue to update every relevant information in Colombia to keep travellers safe and informed.

Following is a timeline of the events in January as reported by GWS:

  • ELN ends ceasefire with pipeline bombings on 10 January – published on 11 January
    • The National Liberation Army (ELN), a rebel group carried out three bomb attacks in Arauca on Wednesday 10 January following the end of a ceasefire with government. The bombings were confirmed by state-run company, Ecopetrol, and more of such attacks could occur in the future amidst the end of ceasefire.
  • Security concern raised as ceasefire with ELN ends – published on 13 January
    • A security alert for Colombia has been issued following the end of a ceasefire agreement with the National Liberation Army (ELN) on 13 January 2018. The end of the ceasefire was marked with violence almost immediately, with a pipeline bombing on 10 January. In addition, an oil worker was reported kidnapped by ELN rebels in eastern Colombia on 13 January. Accordingly, the change in security conditions should be considered with vigilance.
  • Several casualties in a bomb attack on a police station in Barranquilla – published on 27 January
    • Attackers reportedly threw an explosive device into a police station in San Jose neighbourhood in Barranquilla on Saturday morning, 27 January. Gunfire was reported following the explosion. According to reports, at least three police officers were killed and 30 others injured in the attack. Travellers were advised to anticipate increased security and localised traffic disruptions in the area due to the ongoing rescue work.
  • Several injured in attack in the south of Barranquilla on 28 January – published on 28 January
    • An attack took place in the Soledad 2000 neighbourhood in the south of Barranquilla city on Sunday morning, 28 January. According to reports, at least five people were injured in the attack. Increased police presence was advised to be anticipated in the area.
      This is the second attack in Barranquilla in the past two days. Attacks in Barranquilla occur not so frequently.

Following is a timeline of the events in February as reported by GWS:

  • National Liberation Army guerrilla calls for nationwide strike on 10-13 February – published on 7 February
    • According to reports, the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla called for a nationwide strike from Saturday, 10 February, until Tuesday, 13 February. The strike aimed to protest the freezing of peace negotiations between militants and the Colombian government in Quito, Ecuador.
      All ELN members were forced to follow the strike order and militants could hold armed demonstrations at checkpoints.
      Travellers were advised to expect air, ground and sea traffic disruptions. Heightened security was also to be anticipated. 
  • ELN bombs attacks on infrastructure and clashes reported in northern regions, disruptions – published on 11 February
    • According to reports, the Colombian military launched an attack on the National Liberation Army (ELN) after it disconnected Bogota from the Caribbean coast with two bombs attacks on infrastructure as part of a national shutdown. The bomb attacks were reported on a highway in Curumaní, Cesar, and in Pelaya where a bridge over the road between Bogota and the coastal cities Santa Marta and Barranquilla was partially destroyed. There had also been clashes between army troops and ELN militants on Monday 12 February. The fighting occurred in the Valdivia area and at least one soldier was reportedly been killed.
  • Pipeline attack reported in north of Santander Department on 16 February
    • There were reports of an attack at the Caño Limón Coveñas pipeline, near Toledo, north of Santander Department, on Friday, 16 February, leaving a rural area nearby contaminated.
      The incident was believed to have been triggered by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla. Several similar events were also recorded across the country since the freezing of peace talks with the Colombian government on 19 January. 

 

 

Patrícia Baruffi
GWS Analyst
Security risk analyst based in São Paulo

 

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By | 2018-06-13T13:45:39+00:00 March 7th, 2018|Categories: Case Studies|Comments Off on ELN attacks increase following ceasefire expiration in Colombia

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