The northwestern Colombia province of Antioquia raised its state of alert to orange after paramilitary successor group AGC, a.k.a. “Los Urabeños,” allegedly assassinated four policemen in one week, mainly around province capital Medellin.
The group called the “Gulf Clan” by the authorities is responsible for the hit-and-run murders carried out while the group’s leadership is calling for inclusion in a peace process with their traditional arch enemies, the Marxist FARC guerrilla group, according to Antioquia’s top public security official.
Antioquia is on orange alert; we are in a problem that is imminent: the police have been attacked by the “Clan del Golfo” in Turbo, Cisneros, San Jeronimo and Armenia-Mantequilla. Therefore, we have defined an offer of 50 million pesos to persons reporting and identifying these criminals.
Government Secretary Victoria Ramirez Velez
“It is clear to the authorities and everyone that the Gulf Clan is behind these acts,” the top official said in a statement.
Calling themselves the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, the paramilitary heir has previously targeted policemen and at one point even offered a reward for every killed policeman, something not seen since slain drug lord Pablo Escobar reigned over Antioquia in the 1980s and 1990s.
This has sparked concern among the authorities who believe the attacks are a retaliation for ongoing police and military actions against the AGC and other paramilitary successor groups.
This generates anxiety, not only among the security forces but all citizens.
Antioquia governor Luis Perez
After years of avoiding confrontations with the authorities, the AGC began a counter-offensive targeting the security forces earlier this year after a dozen alleged members of the group were killed in a bombing raid.
At least nine policemen were killed in March and April and at least another four were injured.
The group reportedly even threatened to target family members of members of the security forces.
According to the AGC, it laid low in the weeks around an October 2 referendum on peace with the FARC.
The series of cop killings marks the end of the unilateral ceasefire called by the AGC that has repeatedly called for inclusion in the FARC’s demobilization, disarmament and reintegration program.
However, claiming they were deceived by the government and facing the fact more than 2,200 former AUC fighters “died” after their demobilization, the former paramilitaries rearmed, and took control over the drug trafficking and extortion rackets left by the AUC.
Since 2008, half a dozen paramilitary groups have emerged across the country, mainly in areas where illegal operations like drug trafficking and illegal mining are highly profitable illegal enterprises.
The AGC, by far the largest of these paramilitary successor groups, has grown to have more than 2,500 men, making it the largest illegal armed group after the FARC, the guerrilla group currently negotiating its demobilization.
If the FARC demobilizes, the AGC will effectively become Colombia’s largest illegal armed group.
In 2015, 177 members of the security forces were killed while on duty either be ELN guerrillas, drug trafficking groups or neo-paramilitaries, according to the Ministry of Defense. An additional unknown number of policemen, prison guards and soldiers were assassinated while off duty.