Colombia: ELN Suspected in Deadly Attack on Police Academy in Bogota

The car bomb attack in south Bogota left nine dead and more than fifty wounded; the Marxist guerrilla group ELN is the main suspect.

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The Marxist guerrilla group ELN (National Liberation Army) has waged a decades long war against the Colombian government (PanAm Post).

Three days before today’s car bomb terrorist attack perpetrated at the General Santander Police Cadet School, which left 9 dead and more than 50 injured, the ELN Guerrilla Urban Front published an online posting that warned of a possible attack in the capital.

In its Twitter account, the urban cell, which is part of this guerrilla group, posted on its “Insurgencia” thread a message, with a photo alluding to an ELN flag on a bridge on 26th Street in Bogotá that states:

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“Something will happen in the heat of this city; a crowd of men and women who are beginning to organize to remove so much undergrowth from this great garden of red flowers.” This message was also retweeted by the official ELN account.

Minutes after the attack the post was deleted from the website, but the following portions of text were restored:

“Perhaps, the biggest differences, which can be found, are that these political decisions that we have made are built and strengthened in that controlled complexity that is the city, in the very jaws of the model, which must entail a lot of work and constant reading; demands to be rigorous drivers of the policy within our most minimal and broader spaces, leading us to be historical subjects without being detected.”

There are four hypotheses

According to different analysts consulted by the PanAm Post there are four hypotheses regarding responsibility for the attack.

ELN: the main hypothesis, and after the message published by its urban front, it is reasonable to believe that this urban guerrilla group was the author of the attack. The attack was perpetrated by the guerrilla as a way to destabilize public order and show power, which would seek to pressure the government of President Ivan Duque to carry out a dialogue

Criminal gangs: under this hypothesis, the harsh measures taken against organized crime in 2018 by the authorities in Colombia were motivation for the attack. It still can not be ruled out that these groups, in retaliation, have executed the attack.

FARC Dissidents: the dissidents of what was formerly Colombia’s largest guerrilla group perpetrated the attack. The message from ex-leader alias Iván Marquez is that they made an error in having handed over their weapons while the civil reintegration process has not been completed in its entirety. Currently the Colombian government is carrying out a full frontal struggle in rural territories with these groups that have rebelled against official FARC leadership, and distanced themselves from the peace agreement.

Suicide attack: according to the preliminary versions, it could have been a suicide attack. However, this would be unprecedented, due to the fact that attacks of this type have never been carried out in the country.

Nestor Rosania director of the Center for Studies in Security and Peace said that the attack had been organized since last year. “The attack required months of preparation, since it was necessary to identify schedules, change of shift in the guards, how many anti-explosive dogs there were at the time, among other factors.”

Likewise, he assured that the explosive used could be treated with C4, which, after TNT, is one of the strongest explosives available. “This was the same explosive that was used against former minister Fernando Londoño,” he said. And he stressed that in the country there have also been other car bomb attacks but not with the magnitude of this attack.

“They haven’t been as powerful in Tumaco, Norte de Santander, Catatumbo. The complexity of this attack is unusual, in that it took place in Bogotá and something similar had not been seen since the car bomb in the Escuela Superior de Guerra in 2006.”

However, the Attorney General of Colombia reported that the preliminary investigation dtermined that a gray SUV, with license plate LAF565, was loaded with 80 kilos of pentolite, a military grade explosive. The last records show that its last vehicle took place in the state of Arauca, near the Colombian-Venezuelan border.

How did the attack unfold?

According to the preliminary versions reported by the police, a man approached the gates of the Police Cadet School, registered under the name of José Aldemar Rojas Rodríguez and when one of the bomb-sniffing dogs alerted officers to something suspicious, Rojas accelerated between 200 and 300 meters inside the school grounds, and crashed into a wall. It has not yet been determined whether the explosion was precipitated by the crash, was triggered by the driver, or was due to remote activation. After the collision and the subsequent explosion the driver died.

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