Colombia experienced its second consecutive year of increased terrorism in 2012 despite a significant drop in attacks in the second half of the year, according to the United States annual Country Reports on Terrorism.
“As was the case in 2011, the number of total terrorist incidents, casualties caused by acts of terrorism, and economic losses due to terrorism increased in 2012” said the report, released on Thursday by the US Department of State.
The report specifies that attacks made by Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, increased by over 50% in comparison with 2011, and attacks in the first half of the year were “almost a daily occurrence” including “the launching of mortars at police stations or the military, explosive devices placed near roads or paths, sniper attacks, and ambushes” as well as an increase in attacks on infrastructure, such as oil and gas pipelines carried out by the FARC and Colombia’s second rebel group, the ELN.
As of October 31 2012, the report quotes Colombian government statistics indicating a 52% increase in attacks (716 in 2012) compared with the same period for 2011 (472), as well as a 173% increase in attacks on oil pipelines.
In spite of the substantial increase in terrorist activity in the first ten months of 2012, the report signals a “significant drop in attacks during the second half of the year,” attributed to the announcement of peace talks between the government and the FARC, and the unilateral ceasefire announced by the rebel group between November 2012 and January 2013.
However the number of FARC and ELN members killed or captured in combat supposedly went up by 11% and 53% respectively, and the report signals a continued decrease in kidnappings, recalling the 93% reduction seen in the country between 2000 and 2010.
The US report praised the developments the Colombian state made in its efforts to combat terrorism throughout the country, including in in its enforcement of legislation and border security, citing the extradition of 183 individuals to the United States as a result of “evidence sharing and joint law enforcement operations [carried out] in a fluid and efficient manner, with information gathered in Colombia contributing to hundreds of prosecutions of U.S.-based criminals and organizations.”
130 assets valued at $50 million was also declared to have been seized by a special asset forfeiture unit set up by Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s office in 2011, which “will be used for victim reparations in Colombia.”
The report also notes ongoing FARC activities in Panama, where the rebels are reportedly still present in the notorious Darien Gap, along Colombia’s border with Peru, in order to regroup and purchase weapons as well as reported “haven and safe passage” through Cuba and Ecuador. There were also two FARC members reported captured in Venezuela in 2012, one of whom died.
While it confirms that Colombia “is actively fighting to combat terrorism within its borders,” as well as maintaining “a focus on encouraging members and entire units of the FARC and ELN to demobilize and reintegrate with society,” the report reiterates the continued existence of “illegal armed groups use the porous borders, remote mountain areas, and jungles to maneuver, train, cultivate and transport narcotics, operate illegal mines, “tax” the local populace, and engage in other illegal activities.”
The FARC are estimated at having “approximately 8,000 to 9,000 combatants, with several thousand more supporters”, while the ELN’s strength is estimated as “approximately 2,000 armed combatants and an unknown number of active supporters.” The strength of demobilized paramilitary group, the AUC, is stated as “unknown.”
Colombia’s government has been involved in formal peace talks with the FARC since November, and both President Juan Manuel Santos and leaders of the ELN have spoken positively about potential future negotiations.
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