Armed Forces chief directing operations against FARC in southwest Colombia

Armed Forces Commander Admiral Edgar Cely arrived in Cauca to personally direct operations against the left-wing guerrilla group FARC in that department.

In response to six different attacks in the region this previous weekend, Cely said he would move his office to the capital city of Popayan to address the deteriorating security situation in the southwest of Colombia.

The armed forces, in coordination with local police, are using helicopters to provide air support to ground troops operating near the towns of Toribio, Corinto, and Caloto, among other municipalities to find those responsible for the weekend attacks. Authorities believe the FARC’s 6th Front and the Jacobo Arenas Mobile Column, a unit known for regularly terrorizing the town of Toribio, carried out the attacks.

FARC forces detonated a truck bomb in the town center of Toribio on Saturday, killing six and injuring another 70 indigenous residents. The blast destroyed 500 houses as well.

President Juan Manuel Santos has recently ordered the formation of a new army unit to thwart FARC activities in the mountainous region. Cely echoed Santos’ orders, saying it is necessary to transfer more troops to the Cauca region to combat the Marxist guerrillas.

Santos also announced that the army will destroy houses used by guerrillas to attack civilians.

Cely has asked for the cooperation of local residents to help identify civilian-dressed FARC members evading police.

The region around Toribio, and the town itself in particular, is frequently a target for FARC attacks. According to local authorities, guerrillas are trying to get rid of the state forces in the region to re-open a corridor that allows the trafficking of drugs from the south of Colombia to the Pacific coast.

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