Colombia’s military on Sunday claimed the capture of an assassins chief for the ELN, the country’s last standing Marxist rebel group.
The head of the ELN’s hitmen in Arauca, known as ‘El Muerte’ or ‘The Death,’ was caught in Tame, a town in the department of Arauca along the Venezuelan border.
According to Caracol Radio, he has led the ELN’s assassins unit in Arauca since he joined the guerrilla group six years ago.
“‘El Muerte’ would kill people between Fortul, Tame and Saravena, in Arauca, especially on the main roads,” said the General Alvaro Vicente Perez in an interview with Caracol Radio.
“This is an important blow, as it neutralizes the ELN’s syndical and terrorist plans along this roadway,” he added.
According to authorities, “El Muerte” most recently is responsible for the assassinations of two military contractor drivers in October on the road linking the towns of Fortul and Tame, reported Caracol Radio.
He is also believed to have participated in the harassment of the National Police on January 10 in Betoyes, Arauca, which resulted in an injured officer, according to Caracol Radio.
The government and the ELN issued a joint statement on Wednesday in which they announced that formal peace negotiations between the two sides will begin on February 7, following an exchange of captives on February 2.
If the Santos administration is able to negotiate peace with the ELN, it will have removed the original actors that spurred 52 years of violence.
In its 52 years, Colombia’s armed conflict cost the lives of at least 265,000 Colombians and left 7 million homeless or landless.