Colombian Armed Forces Launch Aggressive Offensive Against the ELN

Colombian Armed Forces Launch Aggressive Offensive Against the ELN

By Dialogo
July 13, 2015

ONLY BY HAVING FRIENDLY COUNTRIES JOIN FORCES CAN WE COUNTERACT EVIL ORGANIZATIONS, CALL THEM GUERRILLAS, DRUG TRAFFICKERS, PARAMILITARY FORCES, BACRIM. IN ORDER TO CHANGE THE DAMAGE TO THE ENVIRONMENT CAUSED BY GLOBAL WARMING, THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT AND INDISCRIMINATE EXPLOITATION OF MINERALS AND FORESTS, WE NEED THE WILLINGNESS OF THE WHOLE WORLD, WITHOUT SELFISHNESS OR EXCESSIVE PESSIMISM. What is the use when our police continue to be targets of the guerrilla or of terrorism? Let's begin by protecting our own.. The Colombian military forces were completely focused on the FARC, now with the policies of today they fight the FARC, but then later they change strategies and order activities to be stopped when they're giving good results. They must fight other groups that are acting freely, without the presence of the whole military apparatus, then they change the orders and go back to fighting the FARC, which are very far away from their previous positions. The strategists within the Ministry of Defense, who held diplomatic positions abroad before taking on their positions in the Ministry, and had no idea what goes on in Colombia! They are strategists who went to parties and consular meetings with other countries. Before the army was resistant to so much stupidity, but what's important in Colombia is soccer and let the country fall to pieces but not the soccer stadiums. But the generals' comments are not heard!!!!!

In recent months, the Colombian National Army in cooperation with the National Police has launched several important operations against the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia’s northeastern and northwestern frontiers.

A broad range of security forces have participated in the intensified efforts, including Soldiers from the Army’s 8th, 15th, 16th, 18th and 30th Brigades, anti-narcotics officers from the National Police, and members of both Joint Task Force Titán and the Vulcano Joint Task Force. The escalation, which began in late April, has targeted guerillas in the departments of Norte de Santander, Arauca, Boyacá, and Chocó -- four historic ELN strongholds.

Since then, the Colombian Armed Forces have killed at least seven ELN members in northeastern Colombia, and captured three more. In northwestern Colombia, Military forces have killed six ELN guerrillas, captured seven more, and rescued three minors, according to Brigadier General Javier Díaz, Commander of Joint Task Force Titán.

The operations have damaged the efforts of the guerrillas to strengthen their presence in those areas, security analysts said.

“There has been a significant violent presence in those departments for a long time,” said Jorge Restrepo, director of the Conflict Analysis Center (CERAC), an independent research organization in Bogotá that monitors the Colombian conflict. “But there was a recent substantial upsurge of ELN violent activities during FARC’s unilateral five-month ceasefire,” from December 2014 to May 2015.

Army captures ELN explosives expert in Chocó

As part of the offensive, members of Joint Task Force Titán, supported by the Navy and the Air Force, engaged the ELN's Cacique Calarcá Front in early May. During the firefight in the department of Chocó, Soldiers rescued a wounded minor; they also captured an important alleged ELN operative known as "Wilmar" or "Piquiña," who Military officials suspect is the second-in-command and finance head of the ELN's Cacique Calarcá Front. The 15-year ELN veteran and explosives expert is also suspected of responsibility for numerous extortions, kidnappings, and terrorist actions in Chocó — including a 2010 ambush that resulted in the death of four Soldiers, and a similar action in 2004 that resulted in nine dead police officers.

Also in May, the Army launched a broader effort in the Catatumbo region of northeastern Colombia, and Soldiers from the Vulcano Task Force captured on May 4 an alleged ELN operative known as “Pepo.” Military authorities suspect he's the head of the ELN’s Capitán Francisco Bossio Company, in Norte de Santander, and that he's a master bomber and sniper who acted as the group’s arms buyer in the region. A well-known extortionist, Pepo had joined the terrorist organization in 2005; Military authorities suspect he has participated in at least 10 terrorist attacks.

Military operations in northeastern Colombia

Two days after that capture, Troops from the 18th Brigade in Boyacá killed one guerrilla member from the ELN’s Efraín Pabón Pabón Front and wounded another during a confrontation. Then on May 10, in Norte de Santander, Soldiers from the 30th Brigade discovered and deactivated two ramps containing cylinders filled with 60 kilograms of contaminated shrapnel and 12 kilograms of explosives.

Troops with the the Vulcano Task Force, that same month, also cleaned a mine field in a nearby municipality and assisted the National Police in seizing and destroying nearly 860 kilograms of cocaine and 1.4 tons of marijuana. Meanwhile in Arauca, Soldiers from the 16th Brigade killed a leader of the ELN’s José David Suárez Front as part of a Military operation; additionally, the National Police and Troops from the 30th Brigade destroyed four ELN cocaine processing laboratories valued at approximately $1.5 million.

Continued vigilance against the ELN

The Military initiative against the ELN continued into June and is ongoing. The Armed Forces must remain vigilant against the organization, which engages in drug trafficking to finance its terrorist operations. In the Catatumbo region, the ELN has approximately 400 men, most of whom live off the drug trade. Many of them work together with other criminal organizations, including drug trafficking groups.

“The ELN has benefited from a criminal marriage based on drug trafficking with the FARC, the EPL, and criminal gangs,” said Colonel Marcos Pinto Lizarazo, commander of the Army's 30th Brigade. “We have not and we will not stop fighting them.”