Authorities on Friday fiercely criticized rebel group ELN for allegedly using a soldier’s amputated leg to terrorize the local population of a town in northern Colombia.
The country’s second-largest guerrilla group was accused of showcasing the amputated leg of a Colombian soldier victimized by a landmine in Convencion, a municipality in the Norte de Santander province, reported local media.
The ELN allegedly chose to display the leg at a local high school, leading many to denounce the gruesome showing as an act of terrorism and a crime against humanity.
The ELN has not publicly taken responsibility for the act.
The victimized soldier, Edwar Avila, lost both of his legs Wednesday morning by stepping on a landmine while overseeing the construction of a playground near the educational institution in question.
After the explosion, Avila was quickly transferred to the city of Bucaramanga to receive specialized medical care. Villagers later reported finding parts of his leg hanging in a net at the high school situated next to the playground.
“Exhibited parts were found, but no one knows who [is responsible] or at what time they were put in place, presumably it was the perpetrators,” said a villager.
Officials across the Colombian political landscape voiced their disgust, with President Juan Manuel Santos taking to Twitter to exclaim that “the whole of Colombia rejects and condemns the atrocity of the ELN. It fills us with shame and sorrow!”
Despite the suffering Avila has had to endure and will no doubt continue to experience as a result of this occurrence, he appeared to be optimistic and strong moving forward when talking to media.
“Adversity for a soldier is fortifying, it helps me to be stronger in life. I only lost my legs and not my life, I have a lot of will to keep on living,” explained Avila.
The Ombudsman’s Office of Colombia released a statement suggesting that this episode is not only a violation of International Humanitarian law, but it also jeopardizes the nascent peace talks, currently in an exploratory stage, between the ELN and the Colombian government.
These ongoing talks were made public in June, five days before Santos successfully sought re-election, but so far have yet to be formalized.
Colombia entera repudia y condena atrocidad de ELN: Santos (El Espectador)