An attack attributed to Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, left at least ten soldiers dead and eleven injured in northern Colombia on Wednesday.
Authorities said the soldiers were killed when units from the army’s Second Division clashed with rebels from the ELN’s Efrain Pabon Pabon Front in the northern Norte de Santander department.
President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed the death of six soldiers on Twitter. However, the Second Division said a total of nine soldiers had died in the rebel attack. Local authorities said a further eleven soldiers were injured and another “disappeared.” According to the army, the missing soldier was taken prisoner by the ELN rebels after the combat.
“The number of our soldiers assassinated, product of the terrorist attack perpetrated by members of the ELN, ascended to nine,” the Second Division said in a statement.
Later on Wednesday, the army stated ten soldiers, nine enlisted men and one officer, had died in the attack.
Lamentamos la muerte de seis héroes de nuestro ejército en ataque del ELN en Norte de Santander. Nuestros corazones están con sus familias.
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) 22 maj 2013
The wounded soldiers were evacuated from the spot and were taken to hospital in the cities of Cucuta, Bucaramanga and Pamplona, where they remained under medical observation as of Wednesday.
Apparently, there were no casualties among the insurgents.
According to the newspaper El Tiempo, the ELN rebels succeeded in stealing 16 rifles, 25 hand grenades and other equipment from the army unit.
The attack took place in the Chitaga municipality, south of the departmental capital of Cucuta.
The area of the attack has traditionally been a stronghold of the ELN rebels. According to the report ‘La Frontera Caliente’ by the conflict-monitoring NGO Nuevo Arco Iris, the ELN has established itself as a de-facto “state” in this mountainous region bordering the Arauca department.
Location of the attack
- Ocho militares muertos y 4 desaparecidos en ataque del Eln (Caracol Radio)