Colombian Special Commands Capture ELN Leader

His capture affects the ELN’s command and control system and disrupts terrorist attack plans in the country.
Yolima Dussán/Diálogo | 9 April 2019

Transnational Threats

Units of the Joint Special Operations Command captured Arturo Ordóñez, alias Elefante, on March 1, 2019, in Bogotá, Colombia. (Photo: Colombian Joint Special Operations Command)

Units of Colombia’s Joint Special Operations Command (CCOES, in Spanish) captured Arturo Ordóñez, alias Elefante, top leader of the National Liberation Army’s (ELN, in Spanish) Urban Front, on March 1, 2019, in Bogotá. ELN’s Urban Front is the criminal structure with the most growth in Colombia since 2017, upon its leaders’ decision to increase attacks against city dwellers.

“This criminal conceived many of the attacks of that terrorist group on national territory,” Colombian President Iván Duque told the press. “He is one of the intellectual perpetrators of the attack against the General Santander National Police Academy.”

On January 17, 2019, a car bomb exploded at the police academy, leaving 23 police candidates dead and more than 70 injured. As a result, the Colombian government suspended peace talks with ELN.

Units of CCOES captured alias Elefante in an office building in central Bogotá. Thanks to satellite technology, the Colombian Army sent coordinates and real-time images of the criminal’s location and activities to the command, enabling the intervention to be conducted with precision.

“The operation concentrated national authorities’ efforts with the leadership of our Army’s intelligence, which made it possible to capture this individual,” General Nicasio Martínez, commander of the Colombian Army, told the press. “We know that he was coordinating the transport of people to various cities in the country to carry out terrorist [attacks].”

 

The Colombian National Police’s Special Operations Group guards the General Francisco de Paula Santander National Police Academy on January 17, 2019, after a car bomb exploded, leaving 23 dead and more than 70 injured. (Photo: Juan Barreto, AFP)

Against police, citizens, infrastructure

Elefante, also known as Horacio or Ezequiel, worked with ELN for 37 years. He is a member of the national office that reports to the central command, which conducts attacks throughout the Colombian territory. “He determined the direction and planning of terrorist acts in 10 major cities in the country: Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Bucaramanga, Barrancabermeja, Medellín, Popayán, Cali, Neiva, and Bogotá,” the Colombian Army indicated. “For many years, he was responsible for attacks against sensitive infrastructure in the country [oil pipes and power stations], causing huge economic loss and serious environmental damage.”

Authorities accused him of perpetrating “Plan Pistola”, which aims to attack members of the Public Force, as in the attack at the Barranquilla Police Station on January 27, 2018 that left five police officers dead and 41 injured. Authorities also accuse him of carrying out a bomb attack on February 19, 2017, at Plaza de Toros La Santamaría in Bogotá, leaving 30 injured.

Rewards system

Authorities began closing in on alias Elefante after a citizen recognized him on the street and reported him to the police. In Colombia, the citizen reporting system to capture criminals is a very useful tool in the fight against crime.

Security forces captured several criminals and gang members thanks to information coming from responsible citizens, who, concerned for the wellbeing of their families and communities saw the need to report ELN members to regain peace, police told the press. “With this capture, ELN suffered its worst blow in years. We will keep confronting them until we break them down and bring them to justice,” Duque said.

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