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News / Nation & World

Colombian security forces attacked with explosives after a cease-fire breaks down

By Associated Press
Published: April 5, 2024, 2:46pm

BOGOTÁ (AP) — Colombia suffered a series of attacks Thursday night and Friday morning, marking the first major assault against its military since a mafia group born from the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced it was scaling up operations earlier this week.

The attacks in the war-torn southwest of the country featured explosives and firearms, and a soldier was wounded, the army said.

A cease-fire between the armed group known as FARC dissidents and authorities was recently suspended after the government of President Gustavo Petro said FARC dissidents violated a truce by attacking a rural Indigenous community in the same region where the recent overnight attacks occurred.

The attacks mark a serious setback for Petro, a leftist, ex-guerrilla leader, who won the presidency on a promise of consolidating “total peace” in a country plagued by violence for much of its history.

The injured soldier was standing guard at military headquarters in the city of Tumaco, a hub for armed groups, in the southwest. He was wounded by shrapnel from a grenade thrown by a man on a motorcycle, an incident still under investigation.

Minutes before, another explosive device was thrown in front of a military facility in the Colombian city of Cali, causing no injuries. The army said the attack was carried out by FARC dissidents.

“The tactic they use is: they get the vehicle close to the military installation, activate a charge that launches the explosives inside,” Major General Erik Rodriguez Aparicio told reporters Friday morning.

Rodríguez Aparicio added that the attack is a “reaction to the forceful operations” of the military in the regions of Valle del Cauca, Nariño and Cauca against two different factions of FARC dissidents, known as the Segunda Marquetalia and Estado Mayor Central.

A third attack took place early Friday in a rural area of Jamundí, a town located 15 miles from Cali, when armed fighters fired at a police station from the mountains.

In a statement, police said they requested reinforcements from the army but were attacked by mafia fighters throwing gas cylinders filled with explosives and shrapnel.

The FARC dissidents were born after the historic 2016 peace accords between guerrillas and the government began to break down, and many ex-rebels once again took up arms against the government. They joined a toxic slate of smaller narco-trafficking militias warring for territory, causing violence in Colombia to surge in recent years.

Petro has sought to revamp the way the South American nation has tackled its endemic violence, shifting from military tactics to addressing root causes such as poverty, and negotiating peace pacts with some of the armed groups.

But so far, violence hasn’t dipped, and a number of the militias have taken advantage of ceasefires to gain territory and ramp up illegal operations.