2009-10-23

FARC offensives worsen in Colombia

Soldiers guard mortars seized from FARC in a military raid near Medellín. The civil population is on alert fearing a worsening armed conflict.

Soldiers guard mortars seized from FARC in a military raid near Medellín. The civil population is on alert fearing a worsening armed conflict.

Friday, Oct. 23

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – With less than seven months until the presidential elections, Colombia has witnessed the murder of two municipal councilors on the outskirts of Bogotá, the death of 21 guerrillas in combat and the nationwide capture of at least 40 FARC collaborators. These events have raised the alert among President Álvaro Uribe's government and the civil population, who fear a possible resurgence of armed violence in the country.

Local politicians María Fanny Torres and Fernando Morales Pabón, from the Colombian Liberal Party, were kidnapped and murdered by rebels from the FARC's Front 53, reported El Tiempo, south of the capital in Sumapaz on Oct. 19. The operation bore the hallmarks of being "selective killings" by the guerrilla group, which is trying to recover a district they have traditionally used to infiltrate the Colombian capital.

Authorities reacted by offering a US$26,000 reward for information leading to arrests and set up a permanent police commando base in the area with 100 officers and helicopters available to respond immediately to any FARC threats.

Meanwhile, at least 21 FARC combatants were killed in recent clashes against the army in Cauca province (south-west), reported W Radio. Seven troops also lost their lives in rural Toribio, a strategic corridor for smuggling drugs and arms to Colombia's Pacific coast.

According to Colprensa, the Colombian intelligence agency (DAS) arrested 40 alleged members of FARC's logistic branch, which extorts tradesmen, recruits children and gathers funds in the departments of Arauca (on the Venezuelan border), Boyacá (center) and Casanare (east).

Furthermore, two rebels planning to attack the presidential plane were captured in the central-eastern province of Huila.

The wave of FARC-related attacks and clashes comes just seven months away from the presidential elections, where Uribe hopes to stand for a third consecutive term if the favorable referendum results are ratified by the Constitutional Court. FARC is the main target of Uribe's Democratic Security measures that spearhead Colombian domestic policy.

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