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Published On: Thu, Jan 11th, 2018

Colombian government and ELN resume hostilities

nsnbc : Hostilities between Colombia’s government and the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) resumed after the bilateral ceasefire expired Wednesday, at midnight. The ELN has since then launched isolated attacks while the government has recalled its chief peace negotiator from Quito. Both parties express intentions to continue the peace talks but whether or not there will be reached another ceasefire before or during Colombia’s presidential elections is uncertain.

Alleged ELN attack_Jan 2018_ColombiaColombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said Wednesday, guerrillas from Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) had carried out at lest three attacks and killed one soldier on the very day that the bilateral ceasefire ended. Villegas said the ELN blew up an oil pipeline in Casanare, shot one soldier in Arauca and carried out a third attack in Boyca. The State-run oil company Ecopetrol claimed that the ELN had carried out three attacks on the Caño-Limon oil pipeline in Arauca and Boyacá.

The ELN would not take responsibility for individual attacks, but said that “the incidents that happened today in eastern Colombia occurred in the midst of the complex situation of conflict that the country is suffering.” The ELN negotiators said that the resumption of hostilities “should not change the course of the conversations to achieve a political way out of the conflict.” President Juan Manuel Santos ordered chief government negotiator Gustavo Bell to return from Quito to “evaluate the future of the process”.

Bishop Jaime Muñoz, whose Catholic Church monitored the ceasefire together with the UN, urged the warring parties to spare the civilian population. Munoz said “At the moment, the humanitarian element must come first. The civilian population must be protected… We do not want to see the reactivation of those high levels of violence in the country.” The resumption of violence comes at three months before congressional elections and just days before a visit of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to Colombia.

According to the Defense Minister, the military has initiated offensives against the ELN in the regions that were affected by the attacks. Villegas had earlier stressed that the ELN would become “a prime military target” if hostilities resume. The ELN, for its part, has repeatedly stressed that the military violated the ceasefire by coordinating with right-wing neo-paramilitaries.

A/N & CH/L – nsnbc 11.01.2018

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