Rebels from Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, on Sunday launched an attack on an oil site in northern Colombia.
According to reports, a group of FARC insurgents approached a construction site in Teorama in the Catatumbo region of the Norte de Santander department and destroyed a tractor, a cargo truck and another vehicle. The construction site belonged to the state-owned oil giant Ecopetrol — the largest listed company in Latin America — which accounts for 80% of the country’s oil production. The attack occurred in the same area where Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, supposedly kidnapped two German tourists back in November.
This was the sixth reported FARC attack against oil infrastructures in Norte de Santander so far in 2013. There have been two reports of ELN attacks on other infrastructures during the same period.
According to Caracol radio, FARC guerrillas on Sunday launched yet another attack against the Caño Limon Coveñas pipeline in the Carmen municipality in the Norte de Santander department.
The area around Teorama near the Venezuelan border is considered a stronghold for FARC rebels. The organization’s 33rd Front routinely attacks security forces in the area. The 33rd Front is also believed to be the outer security ring of the insurgency’s leader, “Timochenko.”
Jimenez is believed to be protected by only a dozen or so guerrillas in order to avoid detection from the Colombian armed forces. Authorities suspect that within the troubled Catatumbo region there are thousands of civilian FARC informants who alert the rebel leaders of any army operations.
During the first 10 days of February, there were 30 reported instances of FARC guerrillas attacking security forces across the country. The attacks led to 10 deaths and left another 35 injured according to reports compiled from regional, national and international media.
The FARC on Saturday, however, did announce the end of the “armed strike” which had paralyzed traffic in western Colombia for over a week.
The uptick in FARC violence after the end of the organization’s self-declared unilateral ceasefire has created tension at the negotiation table between the insurgents and the government. The capture of three members of the Colombian armed forces in late January caused a riff between chief rebel negotiator “Ivan Marquez” and the government’s counterpart Humberto de la Calle.
“A kidnapping is a kidnapping, who the victim is does not matter,” said De la Calle.
Marquez said Friday that he did not know exactly when or if the captured servicemen would be released, as he claimed not to be in direct contact with the guerrillas responsible for the kidnapping.
However, on Saturday, FARC’s “foreign minister,” Rodrigo Granda, said that the rebels were “ready to release” the prisoners.
“They are in good condition and [are] receiving a respectful and dignified treatment,” said Granda.
The FARC announced in early 2012 that they would no longer kidnap “civilians for financial reasons.” However, according to the rebels, members of the security forces captured in combat are considered “prisoners of war.”
The FARC currently has somewhere between 9,000 and 11,000 armed combatants and have been waging war against the Colombian state for nearly 50 years.