Colombia Keeps Up the Fight Against Criminal Groups

Colombia weakened the Residual Organized Armed Group Third Commission with a recent capture.
Myriam Ortega/Diálogo | 26 February 2019

Transnational Threats

Units of GAULA Cauca carry out a forced entry in the region. Authorities had attempted to capture alias José Tombe twice before finally arresting him. (Photo: Colombian Army)

In mid-January, the Colombian Armed Forces captured José Nabel Jiménez Tronsoco, alias José Tombe, leader of the support networks of the Residual Organized Armed Group (GAOR, in Spanish) Third Commission. The group operates in the country’s southwest. Units of the Unified Action Group for Personal Liberty (GAULA, in Spanish) of Cauca department led a joint operation that resulted in the criminal’s capture.

“[The capture] is part of a joint, coordinated, interinstitutional, interagency effort with the Office of the Attorney General and GAULA units,” Colombian Army Lieutenant Colonel Andrés Bretón Vargas, commander of GAULA Cauca, told Diálogo. “It was an effort focused on extortion and kidnapping, based on the Freedom Heroes Bicentennial Plan.”

The Colombian Armed Forces introduced the plan in December 2018. It took effect on January 1, 2019, to guarantee state security and stability throughout the year. The priorities are to protect the population and infrastructure, and neutralize the threat of organized armed groups.

Two-Year follow-up

Colombian authorities’ intelligence work to counter GAOR Third Commission and alias José Tombe started in 2017. “We were monitoring alias José Tombe in a coordinated effort with our Colombian Air Force, through a technical, deep, and specialized investigation,” said Lt. Col. Bretón. “We were able to identify the modus operandi of this individual.”

Investigations showed that the structure operated in different municipalities of Cauca department. Alias José Tombe was in charge of extortion and kidnapping to obtain funding for the criminal network. He reported to alias Caqueteño, leader of GAOR Third Commission, and alias Mauricio, second in command.

“This person was in charge of conducting the extortions and moving the logistics aspects of this group,” Colombian Army Brigadier General Jorge Herrera Díaz, commander of the 29th Army Brigade in Popayán, Cauca’s capital, told Diálogo. “Many times, this individual personally demanded money from shopkeepers.”

In July 2018, authorities intensified intelligence efforts as extortions increased in the region. According to Lt. Col. Bretón, amounts demanded from victims went up from $300 to more than $60,000.

Authorities arrested alias José Tombe at a gas station in Cajibío municipality, Cauca department. (Photo: Colombian Army)

“Those who didn’t pay for these extortions were subject to terrorism, such as attacks with explosive devices or grenades, and murder,” the officer said. “Through intelligence work, we were able to identify the perpetrators of these crimes against shopkeepers, drivers, coffee growers, ranchers, from whom  extortion fees were demanded on behalf of Third Commission.”

The capture

“We carried out several operations,” said Brig. Gen. Herrera. “In fact, we already attempted to capture this individual twice, but since he was from the area, he manipulated the people to revolt against us.”

GAULA Cauca’s monitoring led to the criminal’s capture at a gas station in Cajibío municipality. “Once he noticed the troops, he tried to escape. He tried to deceive us, but we were able to determine he was driving a motorcycle,” said Brig. Gen. Herrera.

Authorities handed over the criminal to the Prosecutor’s Office of Popayán. The capture is one of many successful operations against GAOR Third Commission.

“With the arrest of José Tombe, we made five captures,” said Brig. Gen. Herrera. “These captures are part of nine neutralizations we carried out against this ring. We’ve been continuously weakening it.”

Combined work

According to Brig. Gen. Herrera, the population played an important role in the success of the joint effort. “We couldn’t have achieved this if the people hadn’t reported the extortion,” the officer said.

Lt. Col. Bretón also praised GAULA’s specialized work and their contribution to eradicate crime in Colombia. “The strength that GAULA service members can have to carry out these strategic blows brings peace and well-being to the community and society,” he concluded.

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