BOGOTÁ, Colombia – One civilian was killed, three police officers were injured and 18 homes were damaged when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) detonated a car bomb outside a police station in the department of Cauca, just days after its leader, Alfonso Cano, died during a military operation.
The blast in the city of Piendamó on Nov. 6 was preceded a day earlier by a car bomb that exploded outside the courthouse in the town of Toribío. Mayor Carlos Alberto Banguero and six others were injured in the attack.
“Faced with pressure from the authorities, the FARC has no recourse but to use cowardly techniques focused on attacking [the population],” Germán Ortiz, a specialist on the Colombian conflict and professor at the Universidad del Rosario, said. “It is logical that the FARC would attack with this kind of strategy, since they no longer have the strength and the power they had before.”
Car bombs have long been one of the FARC’s methods of inflicting death and destruction since it began fighting the state in the 1960s. But the terrorist group has also used homes – and even children and animals – to carry its bombs.
“The attack in Piendamó is an example of how the FARC continue to use this kind of strategy, since they have no other way to combat the authorities,” Ortiz said. “If they fight face to face, we have already seen that the FARC end up losing.”
This past July, a car bomb severely damaged the Central Police Station in Corinto in the department of Valle. That same month, the authorities were unable to deactivate a bomb placed by the command of the FARC’s Teófilo Forero front that killed a policeman at the inspection post in Guayabal, in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán in the department of Caquetá.
“These attacks are the only way the FARC can disturb Colombians,” said President Juan Manuel Santos after the bombing in Piendamó. “In Corinto and San Vicente del Caguán we have reinforced security and we will reconstruct everything that was destroyed by FARC terrorism. We are here to defend [Colombians]. The cowardly strategies of these terrorists cannot stop the justice these groups will face if they don’t turn themselves in.”
Between 2009 and 2010, there were 240 attacks, including bombings and firefights, initiated by the FARC against military and security forces nationwide, according to the National Police.
Police deactivated 320 explosives during this period after disarming 208 bombs between 2007 and 2008.
Many Colombians will never forget the bloodshed caused by the FARC’s bombs, including when the terrorist group used a car bomb consisting of 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of C-4 and ammonia to kill 36 and injure more than 200 during an attack at Club El Nogal in Bogotá.
The FARC also has used animals to bring its bombs to its targets. In 2002, the terrorist group detonated a “horse bomb” that killed a 14-year-old and two farmers in the municipality of Acevedo in the department of Huila. The next year, eight people died when a bomb strapped to a horse exploded in the central plaza of Chita in the department of Boyacá.
On March 12, 1996, a “donkey bomb” packed with 60 kilograms (132 pounds) of dynamite killed 11 police officers in the municipality of Chalán, in the department of Sucre.
The man responsible for the heinous crime, Óscar Enrique Cardona Villalobos, was 15 when he detonated the bomb via remote control.
Today, he’s 32 and behind bars after being arrested last year.
But one of the most horrifying attacks occurred in Fortul in Arauca state on April 17, 2003, when FARC operatives packed a bicycle with explosives, tricked an unwitting 10-year-old boy into riding his bike into town and then remotely detonated the bomb. The boy was killed instantly and three civilians were injured in the blast.
But the FARC’s bombings haven’t stopped the government’s fight against the country’s largest guerrilla group.
During the past year, 1,491 members of the FARC have been arrested, 1,317 have demobilized after turning themselves in to authorities and 356 have died during counter-terrorism operations, according to the government.
“There are still a lot of guerrilla fighters all over Colombia who insist on taking the wrong path of weapons and terror, and they need to know we will reach them, too,” Santos said.
Mauro Miedico, chief of the Specialized Terrorism Prevention Unit with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said Santos’ administration can’t let up in its fight against the FARC after Cano’s death.
“It’s vital for the government to continue pressuring the FARC and drown its efforts to hurt the population, the police and the military who serve to protect the country,” he said. “These types of tragedies always leave everyone with psychological and physical trauma, not just for the civilian population, but also for the military members who survive.”