Colombian Army Finds Rebel Landmine Factory

By Dialogo
January 20, 2009

Soldiers seized nearly half a ton of explosives and dozens of landmines from a ‎Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, factory, but no one was arrested, ‎the army said Sunday.‎ The factory was found Saturday by counterinsurgency troops in La Holanda, a hamlet in ‎northeastern Colombia, the army brigade based in the city of Arauca, the capital of the ‎like-named province, said.‎ The facility contained 124 "improvised explosive devices," 450 kilos (991 pounds) of ‎explosives and 150 kilos (330 pounds) of shrapnel, the army said.‎ Soldiers also seized 470 electronic initiators, 1,200 meters (1,313 yards) of detonating ‎cord and six radios.‎ The site was "a factory used by FARC terrorists to manufacture antipersonnel mines," the ‎army said.‎ Landmines have been planted in 31 of Colombia's 32 provinces, according to the United ‎Nations.‎ Up to 100,000 of the weapons are estimated to have been planted around the Andean ‎nation, the great majority of them by leftist rebels seeking to inflict casualties on soldiers ‎and protect coca plantations that supply their extensive drug trafficking operations.‎ Almost all of the weapons are "non-industrial" homemade mines manufactured in ‎guerrilla camps at low cost.‎ Having ratified in 2001 the Ottawa Convention, which outlaws the use, production, ‎stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines, the Colombian government subsequently ‎developed an action plan to rid the country of the buried weapons.‎ Colombia's first reported incident in which a landmine killed or injured a non-combatant ‎was in 1990, and, since then, hundreds of municipalities have in one way or another been ‎affected by the buried explosives.‎ Landmine Monitor, a non-governmental organization, said that while some manufactured ‎devices have been imported into Colombia, most of the mines deployed in the Andean ‎nation were more-difficult-to-detect homemade bombs.‎ The global watchdog organization also noted that 97 percent of Colombia's landmine ‎blasts occurred in rural areas, which together constitute the main battleground in the ‎country's internal conflict.‎ Colombia is thought to have anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 landmines buried in its ‎soil, each with a "useful" life of 50 years or so.‎ The Colombian armed forces destroyed the last 6,814 mines in their arsenals on Oct. 24, ‎‎2004.‎ Landmine Monitor said that planting each mine costs the insurgents less than $2, while it ‎costs the country about $1,000 to eliminate one.‎ The FARC, Colombia's oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, was founded in 1964, ‎has an estimated 8,000 to 17,000 fighters and operates across a large swath of this ‎Andean nation.‎ President Alvaro Uribe's administration has made fighting the FARC a top priority and ‎has obtained billions in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations.‎ A succession of governments have battled Colombia's leftist insurgent groups since the ‎mid-1960s.‎ The FARC is on both the U.S. and EU lists of terrorist groups. Drug trafficking, extortion ‎and kidnapping-for-ransom are the FARC's main means of financing its operations.‎
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