ELN rebel commander dead after military strike: Bogota

·3-min read
ELN commander "Fabian" was injured in a bombing two weeks ago after which Colombian police issued this handout picture of dead guerrillas (AFP/-)

A commander of Colombia's last active guerilla group, the ELN, died Tuesday from injuries sustained in a bombing carried out by the military two weeks ago, the government said.

The rebel leader, who used the alias "Fabian" but whose real name was Ogli Angel Padilla Romero, had been the target of the bombing in the northwestern department of Choco, Defense Minister Diego Molano told reporters.

"He was found wounded yesterday (Monday), hidden under some bushes. He was very close to the place where the bombing took place," said Molano.

The militant died in a hospital in the city of Cali early Tuesday.

Fabian was a member of the ELN's central command decision-making body, and led its "Western War Front" in Choco, one of the group's strongholds.

Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Twitter the "narco-terrorist" and "assassin" had been "neutralized."

"He was a criminal of the greatest danger," added Molano, who called Fabian "the author of many murders, kidnappings" and describing him as a "drug trafficking ringleader" behind the displacement of thousands of people.

According to police, he had also sponsored attacks on the security forces and acts of vandalism during massive anti-government protests that shook the country between April and June this year and left dozens dead.

The ELN or National Liberation Army is the last active guerrilla organization operating in Colombia after a 2016 peace agreement that officially disarmed the main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, though some of its members remain active too, and in conflict with the ELN.

The ELN has some active 2,300 combatants and an extensive support network in urban centers.

In recent weeks, the Colombian government has blamed the ELN for several blows against the security forces.

- Wanted man -

Fabian joined the group as a teenager and was part of a radical section involved in cocaine trafficking and kidnapping to raise money for its attempted insurrection.

A warrant had been out for his arrest for the crimes of "rebellion," kidnapping and murder, the latter for the killing of an indigenous leader.

His death is the most important strike against the ELN since fellow commander "Uriel" was killed in a military operation in October last year.

The jungle of Choco is the epicenter of a territorial dispute between the ELN and the Gulf Clan, Colombia's most powerful narcotrafficking cartel.

It is also a strategic exit point for cocaine shipments to Central America and the United States as well as an enclave of illegal gold mining.

Colombia is the world's largest cocaine producer, and the United States its biggest consumer.

Duque in 2019 ended negotiations with the ELN after the rebels claimed a car bomb attack that killed 22 police cadets, resuming military operations against the group instead.

Colombia is experiencing its most violent period since the 2016 peace deal officially ended a near six-decade civil war, as the ELN, drug traffickers and dissident FARC guerillas continue fighting for territorial control, with civilians often caught in the cross fire.

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