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2009 Country Reports on Terrorism - Colombia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 5 August 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism - Colombia, 5 August 2010, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Government of Colombia maintained its focus on defeating and demobilizing Colombia's terrorist groups through the government's "National Consolidation Plan," which combines military, intelligence, and police operations including counternarcotics, with efforts to demobilize combatants, and the provision of public services and alternative development programs in rural areas that have historically seen high levels of narcotics trafficking and violence. Efforts primarily targeted the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), along with operations against remaining elements of the demobilized United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) – those few who never demobilized and those who rearmed – and newly emerging criminal organizations (BACRIM or bandas criminals in Spanish).

Colombia increased its international counterterrorism cooperation and training efforts. The threat of extradition to the United States remained a strong weapon against drug traffickers and terrorists. At year's end, Colombia extradited 186 defendants to the United States in 2009 for prosecution; most were Colombian nationals.

Colombia continued to expand its role as a regional leader in counterterrorism and provided training to several other countries, including on combating terrorist financing. The Colombian government sought enhanced regional counterterrorism cooperation to target terrorist safe havens in vulnerable border areas. Colombia and Mexico significantly increased joint training and operations against drug trafficking organizations operating in both countries.

The Colombian military's momentum against the FARC slowed somewhat in 2009. Unlike in 2008, the Colombian military did not kill or capture any of the FARC's Secretariat members. Fewer FARC members deserted in 2009 (2,058 as of December 10) than in 2008 (3,027).

However, Colombian security forces captured or killed a number of mid-level FARC leaders, continued to debrief deserters from the group for detailed information on their respective units, and reduced the amount of territory where terrorists could operate freely. The Colombian military and police also destroyed caches of weapons and supplies, and reduced the group's financial resources through counternarcotics and other security operations.

Despite the ongoing campaign against the FARC, the group continued a campaign of terrorist attacks, extortion, and kidnappings. The FARC continued narcotrafficking activities, bombed several military and civilian targets in urban areas, and targeted numerous rural outposts, police stations, infrastructure targets, and local political leaders in dozens of attacks.

  • On January 14, the FARC attacked a police station in Narino using gas cylinders filled with explosives, killing four children and one adult.

  • On January 27, the FARC bombed a Blockbuster video store in the heart of Bogota, killing two people.

  • On February 4, the FARC killed 17 civilians in Barbacoas, Narino.

  • On May 5, the FARC detonated a bomb in Valledupar, Cesar, near a police station, killing two and injuring 10 civilians.

  • On May 20, the FARC bombed two electrical towers in Arauca, causing a blackout in three cities. Some 100,000 people were affected.

  • On May 29, the FARC ambushed a Colombian army battalion in La Guajira, approximately two kilometers from the Venezuelan border, killing eight Colombian soldiers.

  • On July 19, the FARC attacked a police station in Corinto, Cauca, killing two officers and injuring fifteen civilians.

  • On August 25, a FARC bomb in San Vicente del Caguan, Meta, killed two and wounded 19 civilians in the middle of a crowded marketplace.

  • On September 17, the FARC attacked a police checkpoint near the Buenaventura port in Valle del Cauca, injuring one civilian and two police officers.

  • On November 20, the FARC stopped and burned a passenger bus in Barbacoas, Narino, killing four adults and two children.

  • On December 21, the FARC kidnapped and subsequently killed the governor of Colombia's southern department of Caqueta.

The FARC continued a campaign of intimidation and violence against local leaders and communities. The Colombian Council Members' Federation reported that as of November 2009, 12 council members had been murdered, two had been kidnapped, and thousands had received threats. The FARC was also blamed for an August 19 attack that destroyed a U.S.-funded justice center in Cauca department. USAID had invested US$ 150,000 in the new justice house, which was designed to provide basic legal and social services to the community. In an August communiqué released in Narino department, the FARC announced it would treat all projects developed under Colombia's National Consolidation Plan (PNC) as legitimate military targets.

The ELN remained active with approximately 2,000 fighters but with diminished resources and reduced offensive capability. Still, the ELN continued to inflict casualties on the Colombian military through use of land mines and occasional attacks. It continued to fund its operations through narcotics trafficking. The ELN and FARC clashed over territory in northeastern and southern Colombia, although they cooperated in other areas. The ELN continued kidnapping and extortion.

The FARC and ELN in December issued a joint decree claiming the two groups planned to unite to fight the Colombian government. The communiqué claimed leaders of the two groups had met and forged an agreement to focus on cooperating to defeat the government and end U.S. influence in Colombia. Colombian Armed Forces Commander Freddy Padilla dismissed the announcement, pointing out that the two groups' longstanding ideological differences and ongoing confrontations over drug trafficking made such an alliance unlikely to succeed. Previous efforts to unify the two groups have failed.

The AUC formally remained inactive as the Colombian government continued to process and investigate demobilized AUC members under the Justice and Peace Law (JPL), which offers judicial benefits and reduced prison sentences for qualified demobilizing terrorists. The law requires all participants to confess fully to their crimes as members of a terrorist group and to return all illicit profits. More than 32,000 rank-and-file ex-AUC members who did not commit serious crimes have demobilized, and many were receiving benefits through the government's reintegration program, including psychosocial attention, education, healthcare, and career development opportunities. More than 280,000 victims have registered under the JPL through December 2009, although Colombian government efforts to create measures to provide reparations to victims have not been as effective as hoped. Some former paramilitaries continued to engage in criminal activities after demobilization, mostly in drug trafficking.

Colombia kept up its close cooperation with the United States to block terrorists' assets. Financial institutions closed drug trafficking and terrorism-related accounts on Colombian government orders or in response to designation by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Aerial and manual eradication of illicit drugs in Colombia, which is key to targeting terrorist group finances, destroyed about 153,000 hectares of illegal drug crops as of December 7, thus depriving terrorist groups of potentially huge profits. OFAC carried out several designation actions against the financial assets and networks of narcotics traffickers and narcoterrorists. The FARC was first designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997 and OFAC has frozen assets of the FARC or its members when identified, pursuant to Executive Order 12978 and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. The OFAC sanctions investigations targeted networks of money exchange businesses in Colombia that laundered narcotics proceeds for the FARC. In 2006, a Washington, D.C. grand jury indicted 50 leaders of the FARC on charges of importing more than US$25 billion worth of cocaine into the United States and other countries. The United States continued to support Colombia in its efforts to decrease the number of kidnappings and to support cyber security related investigations and forensics units.

On October 30, the United States and Colombian governments signed the Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA). The DCA will facilitate effective bilateral cooperation on security matters in Colombia, including narcotics production and trafficking, terrorism, illicit smuggling of all types, and humanitarian and natural disasters. The DCA facilitates U.S. access for these purposes to three Colombian air force bases, located at Palanquero, Apiay, and Malambo. The agreement also permits access to two naval bases and two army installations, and other Colombian military facilities if mutually agreed. All these military installations are, and will remain, under Colombian control. Command and control, administration, and security will continue to be handled by the Colombian armed forces. All activities conducted at or from these Colombian bases by the United States will take place only with the express prior approval of the Colombian government. The presence of U.S. personnel at these facilities would be on an as needed, and as mutually agreed upon, basis.

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