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An unidentified sniper shot and killed a police commander in the Bajo Cauca region of northern Colombia, a region fought over by the FARC rebels and emerging criminal groups.
According to authorities, Colonel Cristian Florez’s car was hit by three rounds while he was traveling on a road between Taraza and Valdivia in the Antioquia province on July 31, reported El Tiempo. Florez (pictured) was the second-in-command of transport police in the region.
The mayor of Taraza attributed the attack to the 36th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the branch of the guerrilla group operating in the region. He called for increased security in the area.
Antioquia’s government secretary, Santiago Londoño, said that the FARC could be behind the attack, but also noted that the killing could have been the work of emerging criminal bands (BACRIM) in the area. Londoño announced that the governor would convene a meeting with the heads of security agencies in response to the attack.
InSight Crime Analysis
Florez is the second member of the Antioquia highway patrol to be killed in a little over a year. In June 2011, a concealed explosive device planted by the FARC killed a police major from the highway patrol when he went to a site where the guerrillas had burned three cars.
The dense coca crops and transport connections to both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts in Bajo Cauca make it a hub of activity for both the BACRIM and the FARC. It has never been under the sole control of any of these groups, and so has become a battleground for rival criminal organizations.
Illicit activities in the area run from drug trafficking to unlicensed gold mining operations, many of which are run by the FARC’s 36th Front. Neo-paramilitary criminal organizations have also made inroads in this enterprise in Bajo Cauca.
Taraza in particular is a known operating center for BACRIM groups like the Urabeños, which assembles teams of trained, armed men to buy and protect coca base.
In less than two weeks, 19 members of the Colombian security forces have been killed and other 16 have been wounded at the Colombia-Venezuela border. The killings were perpetrated by two fronts of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that assault Colombians and Venezuelans in the area.
The Colombian Army blamed the recent massacres on the 33rd and 59th FARC Fronts. One of the attacks occurred on May 10th at the Norte de Santander Department (Colombia), specifically in La Gabarra, located south of Zulia state (northwest Venezuela). There, seven Colombian National Police officers were killed.
“These men and their partners managed to penetrate the criminal heart of the 33rd Front of the FARC, thus achieving, among other results, the eradication of more than 600 hectares of coca leaf crop,” said the Colombian National Police in a press release.
On Monday, twelve Colombian Army troops were killed as they guarded a group of workers repairing electricity pylons. The incident occurred in Majayura, Maicao Municipality of Colombia, some 980 feet away of the northwestern border of Zulia state, Venezuela.
Colombian Ministry of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzón blamed the attack on the 59th FARC Front, which according to him, has had a base in Venezuela “for quite a long time.” An overview of the fronts
The 59th FARC Front belongs to the so-called Caribbean Block. The Chief of the First Army Division, Brigadier General Jorge Eliécer Suárez Ortiz, said last March to Colombian newspaper El Heraldo de Colombia that it was formed by 132 men.
This front reportedly operates in La Guajira Department (northwest Colombia) and in places such as La Villa del Rosario and Machiques de Perijá (Zulia state). According to news website Minuto30.com, the head of the aforesaid Front is a.k.a. Leonardo Guerra, who is wanted by Colombia. Authorities have offered a USD 227,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
Meanwhile, the 33rd FARC Front is part of the Magdalena Medio Block, which is commanded by a.k.a. Rogelio, who acts with his alleged partner, Víctor Ramón Navarro (a.k.a. Megateo). Navarro comes from Colombian guerrilla group People s Liberation Army (EPL). Colombia offers USD 1.071 for his capture. Presence in Venezuela
Reports about guerrilla camps in Venezuela are not new. In 2010, the Ambassador of Colombia to the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Alfonso Hoyos, presented to the Permanent Assembly a report about the presence of 87 FARC camps located some 13-15 kilometers inside Venezuelan territory.
The 33rd FARC Front reportedly was responsible for the killing of five Venezuelan military officers and an engineer of Pdvsa in Apure state (northwestern Venezuela) in 2004. The case was reported by the Regional Chief of the Scientific, Criminal and Forensic Investigation Agency (Cicpc), Eddie Alberto Ramírez, who was later dismissed from office.
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A suspected FARC guerrilla has been arrested in the southern section of Bogota in connection with the bombing last week targeting former Colombian Interior Minister Fernando Londoño that killed his driver and a bodyguard, officials said.
Andres Felipe Rios Giraldo, who allegedly belongs to the Antonio Nariño Urban Network, or RUAN, of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, appeared before a judge on Wednesday, media reports said.
Police found bomb-making materials and FARC propaganda at Rios Giraldo’s residence in Bogota’s El Paraiso neighborhood.
Rios Giraldo is the first person arrested for the May 15 bombing, which occurred a few blocks from the financial district in Bogota.
President Juan Manuel Santos has said on several occasions that it was not clear who carried out the bombing.
Londoño, for his part, said in a press conference Wednesday that FARC rebels staged the attack with a limpet bomb.
The bomb was meant to kill Londoño, who served as interior minister from 2002 to 2004 in the administration of Alvaro Uribe.
Londoño called on Santos to show the leadership expected of him as president in the war against the rebels or Colombia “will have to find another one.”
Thirty-nine people were wounded in the bombing, which destroyed a bus and several other vehicles, and damaged nearby buildings and businesses.
Londoño’s vehicle was going through a busy intersection in the northern section of Bogota, near the financial district, when the bomb exploded.
The FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, is on both the U.S. and EU lists of terrorist groups. EFE
A bomb targeting a hardline former interior minister killed two of his bodyguards and injured at least 31 people in Bogota’s uptown commercial district Tuesday in the type of brazen attack not seen in Colombia’s capital in years.
The former minister and morning radio host, Fernando Londono, suffered minor shrapnel wounds and was out of danger, authorities said. Video footage showed a stunned Londono, his face bruised, being led from the wreckage in a dark suit and red tie.
Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro said a pedestrian attached an explosive to a door of Londono’s armored SUV and set it off remotely. He said authorities had video of the attack.
The attacker “walked away disguised” and a wig of long black hair and a hat were found in the area, Petro told reporters.
It was the first fatal bombing in the capital in nearly a decade of an apparently political nature.
Bogota’s police chief, Gen. Luis Eduardo Martinez, blamed the country’s main leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, though without offering any evidence.
President Juan Manuel Santos said immediately afterward that it was too early to assign blame.
“We don’t know who is behind this attack,” he said after meeting with police and military brass, Bogota’s mayor and the chief prosecutor. He said, however, that the FARC was behind a car bomb that was detected and deactivated elsewhere in the capital earlier Tuesday.
Santos said Londono, 68, had in the past received death threats and had a sophisticated protection scheme involving about 19 bodyguards.
An archconservative and a stringent critic of the FARC, Londono was interior and justice minister in 2002-2003 under former President Alvaro Uribe.
He hosts a daily radio show called “The Hour of Truth” and firmly opposes peace talks with the FARC, calling the rebels “terrorists” and “murderers.” He has also been critical of Santos for allegedly being soft on the rebels, who have stepped up attacks in recent month.