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Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 - Foreign Terrorist Organizations: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 April 2014
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 - Foreign Terrorist Organizations: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, 30 April 2014, available at: [accessed 20 November 2017]
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.

aka FARC; Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia

Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is Latin America's oldest, largest, most violent, and best-equipped terrorist organization. The FARC began in the early 1960s as an outgrowth of the Liberal Party-based peasant self-defense leagues, but took on Marxist ideology. Today, it only nominally fights in support of Marxist goals, and is heavily involved in illicit narcotics production and trafficking. The FARC has been responsible for large numbers of kidnappings for ransom in Colombia, and in past years has allegedly held as many as 700 hostages. The FARC's capacity has been degraded by a continuing Colombian military offensive targeting key FARC units and leaders that has, by most estimates, halved the FARC's numbers – estimated at approximately 8,000 in 2013 – and succeeded in capturing or killing a number of FARC senior and mid-level commanders. The FARC and the Colombian government began peace talks in 2012, but fighting continued throughout 2013.

Activities: The FARC has carried out bombings, murders, mortar attacks, sniper attacks, kidnapping, extortion, and hijacking, as well as guerrilla and conventional military acts against Colombian political, military, civilian, and economic targets. The FARC has used landmines extensively. The FARC has well-documented ties to the full range of narcotics trafficking activities, including extortion, cultivation, and distribution.

Over the years, the FARC has perpetrated a large number of high profile terrorist acts, including the 1999 murder of three U.S. missionaries working in Colombia, and multiple kidnappings and assassinations of Colombian government officials and civilians. In July 2008, the Colombian military made a dramatic rescue of 15 high-value FARC hostages including U.S. Department of Defense contractors Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howe, who were held in captivity for more than five years, along with former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

In 2013, the FARC focused on low-cost, high-impact asymmetric attacks, such as launching mortars at security forces, the use of explosive devices placed near roads, sniper attacks, roadblocks, and ambushes. In May, Colombian police neutralized a vehicle containing explosives parked by the FARC in Bogotá adjacent to a building which housed district attorneys. In June, the FARC kidnapped an American citizen in a rural area, releasing him in October. In July, the FARC killed 15 soldiers who were guarding an oil pipeline in Arauca. In October, repeated FARC attacks on energy infrastructure left the municipality of Tumaco, in Nariño, without water for almost a week and without power for more than three weeks. In October and November, the FARC repeatedly attacked the Cerrojon coal mine in La Guajira, which produces 40 percent of Colombia's coal exports, killing one soldier and wounding two others. In December, the FARC attacked a police station in the town of Inza in the department of Cuaca, killing six members of the security forces, three civilians, and wounding more than 40 people. The group also increased its use of small arms fire against the U.S.-supported Colombian police aerial eradication aircraft in an effort to undermine the program's ability to eradicated illicit coca cultivation used to finance the ELN and FARC.

Strength: Approximately 8,000 to 9,000 members, with several thousand additional supporters.

Location/Area of Operation: Primarily in Colombia. Activities including extortion, kidnapping, weapons sourcing, and logistical planning, took place in neighboring countries.

Funding and External Aid: The FARC often use Colombia's border areas with Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador for incursions into Colombia; and used Venezuelan and Ecuadorian territory for safe haven.

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