The ELN, Colombia’s second largest rebel group, claimed civilian injuries in a recent terrorist bombing in eastern Colombia were incidental, and that the operation was intended to take out foreign security “bunkers.”
In the past three weeks, there have been four attacks along the Caño Limon-Coveñas oil pipeline in Colombia’s eastern state of Arauca, with the most recent attack leaving leaving at least 13 people wounded on June 30.
Now the rebel group, which has long targeted oil and mining extraction infrastructure as part of an offensive against the Colombian state and foreign business interests, is rejecting claims that the most recent attack was intended to harm or kill civilians,
The targets, claimed the rebel group, in a statement released Monday, were “real bunkers, equipped with the latest security technologies of the [United States].” The statement boasted that “both [attacks] were done in broad daylight, against the most fortified Arauca facilities, guarded by the Army, police and military advisers of the United States.”
The minister of mining had previously accused the rebel group of specifically targeting civilian populations.
“This time the attack was not against the pipeline itself, but rather against the camp facilities, seriously jeopardizing the integrity of the people who were there at the time,” said Colombia’s Minister of Mines and Energy Amylkar Acosta.
“This is an act of utter cowardice. The attack left 15 wounded civilians, violating all aspects of human rights … this act of terrorism has no justification and with these acts the ELN will not pressure the government of President Juan Manuel Santos […] It’s time to throw the militants out of Arauca’s houses,” said Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon.
Earlier Monday, a report published by W Radio alleged that the ELN had been training minors in Arauca to assassinate police and military officers. The document, allegedly obtained from the Army, claimed that 34 children had been trained by the ELN in May.
The ELN is currently in the preliminary stages of a formal peace process with the Colombian government, which has been engaged in active negotiations with the FARC since November 2012. A start date for talks has yet to be announced, and a bilateral ceasefire agreement is not likely to emerge during negotiations.