One soldier is dead and six others hospitalized after eating meat sold to them by an alleged ELN guerrilla in eastern Colombia, international media reports.
Soldiers stationed in a rural area of Arauca on the border of Venezuela fell ill after eating pork suspected to be laced with rat poison, according to British news station BBC. The incident has left one soldier dead, and six more hospitalized.
The soldiers were transported by helicopter to a hospital in the principal capital of Arauca, where 25 year old Edwar Beltran Andres Salazar died shortly after being admitted.
The Colombian military issued a statement on Sunday attributing the incident to the ELN, Colombia’s second largest rebel group, and condemning it as a “cowardly act.” The meat was apparently sold to the soldiers by a guerrilla disguised as a local farmer.
An investigation is underway by prosecutors in Arauca to determine the cause of death, and the Prosecutor General’s office sent a special commission to the area in order to to establish the facts of the events, according to the Latin American newspaper Herald Tribune.
Just five days before the presidential elections in June, Juan Manuel Santos issued a statement announcing the beginning of peace talks between the government and the ELN, after rejecting several earlier overtures by the guerrilla group. Critics accused Santos of using the negotiations as a last-ditch effort to influence the elections, and despite continued promises by the president, negotiations have yet to begin.
MORE: 7 weeks after controversial announcement, still no word on ELN talks
ELN rebels have increased attacks recently, allegedly to pressure the government into initiating peace talks. Although both rebel groups have been attacking energy infrastructures, with a total of 60 successful attacks during the time frame of June 1, 2013 to July 14, 2014, the ELN is responsible for the largest portion.
MORE: ‘ELN attacking energy infrastructures to pressure Colombia govt into peace talks’: report
In recent weeks, several ELN actions have been reported, including the explosion of a bomb in Bogota to commemorate the 50 years anniversary of the guerrilla group.
MORE: ‘ELN bombs’ explode in Bogota, leave no reported injuries
- Colombia probes soldiers’ poisoning in Arauca (BBC)
- One Soldier Dies, 8 Hospitalized in Colombia after Eating Poisoned Meat (Latin American Herald Tribune)
- Comunicado de Prensa (Colombian National Army)