An intelligence report by Colombia’s National Army found that the country’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, has been training 12 to 17-year old children to assassinate police and military personnel, Colombian media reported on Monday.
The report, which W Radio claims to have accessed, alleged that at least 34 children were recently trained to carry out attacks against soldiers and police officers at an ELN camp in Colombia’s eastern state of Arauca.
Army intelligence found that the ELN taught the boys to attack security forces in groups of four or five, with various roles assigned, including lookout, getaway driver, and assassin.
Training at the Domingo Lain Front’s camp is conducted in the format of games, and the killings are allegedly completed as something of an initiation ceremony once the program has been completed, according to W Radio. The targeted attacks reportedly serve to distract authorities from the ELN’s ongoing offensive against oil extraction infrastructure in the region.
The news station did not mention, however, a single documented incident in which security personnel were killed in the manner described. If training lasts a month, as W Radio claims, and killings are committed upon completion, one would expect there to have been a rash of murders in the department.
Two policemen were killed in Arauca in April during an alleged guerrilla ambush, but Colombia Reports has been unable to determine any larger pattern.
Guerrilla groups in Colombia have recruited 1,387 child soldiers since 2011, according to the Ministry of Defense, but the ELN is not as involved in child recruiting as the FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group.
The ELN is indeed targeting operations such as the Caño Limon-Coveñas oil pipeline as part of its longstanding campaign against multinational companies and oil and hydrocarbon mining.
According to W Radio, the work of military intelligence has avoided nearly three attacks per day against the pipeline, but with miles of pipeline running through isolated jungle areas, the guerrilla’s sabotage tactics continue to be effective.
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.