Alleged members of paramilitary successor group “Los Urabeños” threw a grenade at a police post in northern Colombia, injuring four policemen and five civilians, authorities said Tuesday.
The attack took place just after midnight in Puerto Valvidia, a town bordering the coca-rich Bajo Cauca area in Antioquia, one of Colombia’s provinces where the neo-paramilitary group is most powerful.
The Urabeños, who call themselves the “Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia,” have increasingly targeted the police over the past year.
At the same time, the group has been calling to be included in peace talks that are currently being held with leftist rebel groups FARC and ELN, the arch enemies of the Urabeños’ predecessor, paramilitary umbrella organization AUC.
So far this year, at least ten policemen have been assassinated by alleged Urabeños members. The bulk of these killings took place when the group, also Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, shut down the north of the country a few weeks ago.
The 72-hour “pacific strike” ordered by the neo-paramilitaries was combined with dozens of attacks on policemen, buses and trucks, and even shut down parts in the east of Medellin where the group exercises control over local street gangs.
The latest attack fortunately left no fatalities, according to the regional Police commander, Colonel Giovanni Buitrago.
While guerrilla groups FARC and ELN are also active in the area, Buitrago blamed the Urabeños for the attack “because of the attacks we’ve endured in the past weeks.”
The Urabeños were formed by dissident AUC members who refused to take part in the 2003-2006 demobilization of the group.
Rather than taking part in a reintegration plan, the paramilitaries, under the leadership of former mid-level AUC commander “Don Mario,” formed the Urabeños and took over criminal rackets previously under AUC control.
Since then, the Urabeños have embarked on a major territorial expansion, which allowed them to triple territory under their control in over the past five years.
Facing the increased audacity of the neo-paramilitaries and their increased hostility towards the authorities they used to work with, President Santos last week promised to double up on a military offensive targeting the group.
The president refuses to recognize the group as a paramilitary group, rejecting their self-proclaimed role as actor in the country’s 51-year-long armed conflict.
The Urabeños now seem to be trying to twist Santos’ arm and violently promote their inclusion in peace talks that would grant their members judicial benefits they rejected under Uribe.