Black smoke plumes could be seen for miles following a suspected guerrilla attack on a major oil pipeline in eastern Colombia , national media reported on Wednesday.
The fire was reportedly the result of a large explosion that went off in the early afternoon in the eastern state of Arauca. The smoke was said to be visible from La Esperanza, the rural community closest to the attack, all the was to Saravena, some 70 miles away, according to Colombia’s W Radio.
Authorities were called to the scene shortly after the incident to contain the ensuing spill, according to the Bicentenario Pipeline Company.
“The company notified the authorities and requested the activation of the Municipal Council of Risk Management, which had a situation room in the town, to direct their attention to the emergency,” read a statement.
The company added, “We regret the commission of these acts of violence that particularly affect Arauca communities and gravely affect the environment.”
Although no group has yet taken credit for the attack, it has been attributed to Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, according to Colombia’s Radio Santa Fe.
The attack occurred while National Police Director Rodolfo Palomino was in the area following the assassination of Saravena’s secretary of development.
The Bicentenario pipeline was subjected to a similar attack on July 11, which also resulted in oil spills and fire.
The pipeline is still under construction and is destined to reach the state of Sucre, some 600 miles up the northern coast, by 2016, according to Radio Santa Fe.
In June, just before second round presidential elections, the government announced much-awaited peace talks with the ELN. Since then, however, momentum has apparently stalled, and no concrete details have been released as to location or schedule.
In the meantime, the ELN has apparently maintained its offensive against energy infrastructure, part of a longstanding tactic to pressure the state and prominent economic interests in Colombia.
The rebels have traditionally extorted companies that operate in their territories, though attacks such as this most recent one have been justified using leftist insurgence rhetoric.