Colombia claims army colonel provided guerrillas with arms and explosives

Corrupt elements within Colombia’s security forces sold arms and explosives to multiple illegal armed groups, including guerrilla group ELN, according to the prosecution.

The prosecution has discovered at least two alleged arms trafficking rings that operated within the National Army since the arrest of General Jorge Romero, the former commander of the 4th Brigade in Medellin.

Last week, prosecutors arrested the director of the National Army’s family welfare agency, Colonel Alexander Amado, at the Armed Forces’ headquarters in Bogota.

Amado’s arrest followed a three-year investigation into a 2018 bomb attack in which guerrilla group ELN killed six policemen in the northern city of Barranquilla.

The investigation that “originally sought to identify the modus operandi of the ELN” ultimately led investigators to an arms trafficking ring that allegedly operating from the Tolemaida army base in central Colombia.

This ring didn’t just provide arms, ammunition and explosives to the ELN, but also to dissident factions of now-defunct guerrilla group FARC, the prosecution told a Bogota court on Friday.

The distribution center

The alleged involvement of Amado and an army sergeant who was arrested in Medellin in arms trafficking came to light after prosecutors found 14,800 ammunition cartridges in a rental home near the army base in Tolima in November last year.

The ammunitions bust was the second-largest in the past decade, but kept secret until the indictment hearing of the colonel, the sergeant and three civilian suspects.

The home where the ammunition was found was rented by the Medellin official and Amado, who was the director of the army’s National Training Center at the time.

According to the prosecution, the rental home was the distribution center of arms, ammunition and explosives smuggled from Tolemaida, one of Colombia’s largest army bases.

The arms trafficking ring allegedly used commercial messenger services to send the stolen military wear from the rental home to other places in Colombia.

Latest military embarrassment

The revelation that an army colonel allegedly trafficked arms from the Tolemaida base is the latest in a series of arms trafficking scandals involving the Colombian military.

A retired army captain was arrested in July over a major blast that destroyed much of the army’s main base in the northeastern city of Cucuta.

The explosives used in this “terrorist attack” by a retired army commander with alleged ties to FARC dissidents were produced by the military’s arms manufacturer Indumil.

The military’s arms manufacturer and the Arms Trade Control Department (DCCA) were linked to illegal arms trafficking in June last year.

The alleged arms trafficking ring involving the former commander of the 4th Brigade, and alleged Indumil and DCCA personnel had reportedly armed organized crime groups in Medellin since 2016.

Colombia’s military investigated over arms trafficking for illegal armed groups

Operations carried out by the National Police in 2014 and 2015 revealed the alleged involvement of members of the security forces in the arming of paramilitary groups formed by dissident members of the AUC after 2006.

According to human rights NGO Terres des Hommes, guns sold to Colombia’s police by German arms manufacturer Sig Sauer between 2009 and 2011 ended up being used “by illegal armed groups such as paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug cartels.”

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