Colombian Army neutralizes FARC explosives to protect civilians

By Dialogo
June 18, 2014

The Colombian Army is conducting an aggressive and effective campaign to locate and disable improvised explosive devices (IEDs), land mines and other weapons used by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to terrorize the civilian population, including women and children.
IEDs and other explosives placed by the FARC have killed and injured at least 1,000 children and adolescents, and tens of thousands of civilians, according to government statistics. The weapons also kill livestock animals, such as cows and horses which step on landmines which FARC terrorists buried in fields and pastures.
Since January 1, Colombian Army soldiers in the departments of Meta and Guaviare have located and neutralized more than 300 IEDs, 11 minefields, 2,000 kilos of handmade explosives and 14,000 detonators that were planted or produced by the Eastern Bloc of the FARC, according to an Army press release. The soldiers seized explosives and detonators that could have been used to produce 14,000 anti-personnel mines and other terrorist weapons, according to military authorities.
Army forces have also neutralized hundreds of other landmines and IEDs in other parts of the country. The Army’s elite Explosives and Demolition unit (EXDE) performs most of the dangerous work of neutralizing IEDs and other explosives.
FARC terrorists have made extensive use of landmines and other explosive devices during its fifty-year war against the Colombian government. FARC operative placed tens of thousands of mines to protect their bases and coca fields they controlled.
When the terrorists left certain areas, they left land mines behind, with often deadly results.

Deadly FARC explosives

FARC land mines and IEDs have killed more than 10,000 Colombians since 1990 according to Colombia’s Presidential Program for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (PAICMA).
The victims included about 4,000 civilians, including 1,000 children and young people. The explosives killed about 6,000 members of the military.
Worldwide, only Afghanistan has more land mine victims than Colombia.
The Colombian government is engaged with ongoing peace talks with the FARC.
Despite the talks, deaths and injuries attributed to FARC land mines and IEDs have continued to occur.
Among the recent deaths and injuries attributed to FARC explosives:
• On May 29, two children were wounded after one of them picked up an improvised explosive device that had been placed at the gate of a school in the southwestern department of Putumayo. One of the children lost three fingers while the other suffered hearing loss.
• On Feb. 25, an improvised bomb exploded in a supermarket in the city of Quid, capital of the department of Choco, killing five people and injuring many others. FARC terrorists were suspected for the blast, police said. Security forces arrested six alleged FARC members.
• On January 16, an improvised explosive concealed in a motorcycle killed one person and injured 61 others in the city of Pradera, in the department of Valle Del Cauca. The motorcycle had been parked outside the mayor’s office and caused extensive damage to the building. A FARC group took responsibility for the bombing. Army forces later killed two FARC rebels and wounded and captured three others believed responsible for the bombing, according to press reports.
• On Dec. 17, 2013, nine people were killed by an improvised bomb that exploded at a farmer’s market in the town of Inza in the department of Cauca. The dead included five soldiers, a police officer and three civilians, according to press reports.

Soldiers find FARC explosives

In recent weeks, vigilant Army units have been discovering and disabling FARC explosives on an almost daily basis.
For example, on May 29, troops from the Army’s 4th Division discovered and disabled 10 IEDs in the Meta department. Authorities believe the devices were constructed by the FARC. The IEDs were constructed with pentolite, a highly explosive compound that includes TNT.
It wasn’t long before soldiers found more explosives. On May 27, troops attached to the Army’s Task Force Apollo found a FARC minefield composed of six explosive devices in the department of Cauca. EXDE troops destroyed the explosives.

Protecting the civilian population

The Army is continuing to show its capabilities when it comes to finding and disabling IEDs and other explosives to protect the civilian population, livestock, and security forces, said Yadira Gálvez, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
“The Army has (repeatedly) demonstrated its ability to identify multiple types of explosives,” Gálvez said. “The IEDs are explosives that can have large and destructive impact. Clearly, the (civilian) population is affected the most because the FARC is confronting the state but also the population.” Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this article