Colombia’s second largest rebel group ELN have carried out significantly less attacks against military targets and civilian infrastructure in February, according to Colombia Reports’ conflict monitor.
According to reports from local, regional, national and international media, FARC rebels launched a total of 72 attacks against police, the military and civilian infrastructure between February 1 and February 28. The ELN, the country’s second largest rebel group carried out only one reported attack, against 12 in January.
29 soldiers and policemen were reportedly killed in the attacks, in addition to 88 servicemen wounded. Meanwhile, six civilians were killed in hostile actions and 27 were injured.
Six of the attacks were directed against the country’s oil industry, with five such attacks against the Caño Limón-Coveñas oil pipeline in the northern Norte de Santander department and one against the Transandino pipeline in the southwestern Putumayo department.
The most affected department was Antioquia, in the northwest of the country, with 13 attacks, many of them deadly. In this department, rebels continued the practice of burning public transport buses while ambushing army units with snipers and light mortars. Most of these attacks were registered in Antioquia’s Uraba, Bajo Cauca and Nudo de Paramillo regions where the ELN midway of the month announced to join forces with the FARC.
Attacks in this department seem to have spiked after the Colombian air force killed “Jacobo Arango,” an important FARC leader in the region, on January 31.
The second most affected was the southwestern Cauca department, with 10 attacks. Most of the hostile actions in this department were directed against police stations and military outposts, where rebels use home made mortars, to bomb police stations from the mountainous areas controlled by FARC guerrillas. However, if the police stations are protected by enforced concrete, the surrounding civilian buildings are not, often leading to civilian rather than military casualties.
The most deadly FARC attack of the month was registered in the southern Caqueta department, were some 150 rebels clashed with an army unit, leading to the death of seven soldiers from the army. Apart from this, Caqueta suffered two more rebel actions in February.
In Norte de Santander, nine FARC attacks were reported, five of those against the oil industry, leading to extensive economical and environmental damage.
In the southwestern Putumayo department, FARC rebels launched a total of nine attacks, the most deadly of which occurred when rebels from the 48th Front launched a grenade into a restaurant in the San Miguel municipality, killing one policeman, one civilian and wounding fourteen more.
In the Caribbean La Guajira department, FARC rebels continued attacking the economically important Cerrejon coal mine, with one attack registered against the mine itself. On February 2, rebels killed three policemen in the Maicao municipality.
The western Choco department registered five rebel attacks, most of them carried out during the FARC’s “armed strike” realized during the first seven days of February.
In the southwestern Valle del Cauca department, FARC guerrillas continued ambushing army and police patrols in the areas east of the departmental capital of Cali, killing two soldiers and wounding one policeman.
Two attacks were registered in the central Cundinamarca department. The most deadly occurred on February 18, when three policemen were killed in the Sumapaz district, near the capital Bogota. The latest FARC attack in Sumapaz was registered in 2009 and rebels were previously believed to have been pushed away from this metropolitan area.
The central Meta department, once considered one of the most war-torn in Colombia, saw only limited FARC activity, with two hostile actions registered in February. Other regions with reported FARC attacks were Arauca, in the northwest of the country, with five attacks and the southwestern Tolima department, with two.
On February 8, presumed FARC rebels activated a car bomb near a police station in the south-central Huila department’s capital of Neiva, injuring two civilians.