Terrorism: February 21, 2003


Aided by Irish Republican Army (I.R.A) instructors, Colombian rebels have turned into bomb makers and unleashed a new terror campaign. Bombers have become such a threat that police in Colombia's capital Bogata have begun randomly searching for bombs among vehicles stopped at traffic lights. However, the government has had some recent successes. On the 18th, Colombian police captured FARC militia commander Edgar Morales Morrea and two female rebels in Honda. 

Morrea is accused of planning and executing the February 7 bomb attack on the El Nogal club in Bogota. He was transporting 350 gas tanks filled with explosives in a truck, with plans to blow up Honda's Andrade Bridge and two other structures. Honda (about 200 km from the capital) is a key point on the Magdalena River, Colombia's main artery. The nearest bridges up and down stream are over 75 km away, as the crow flies.

This may be a fairly significant tactical victory for the government, since Morrea is FARCs primary expert and instructor in car bombs. He was also supposed to distribute explosives to the rebel groups in the capital.

Colombia fears that the I.R.A. and Spanish rebel group ETA may be using the country as a base for weapons testing and training, viewing the place as another potential Afghanistan to be turned into a global training ground for terrorists. The Colombian government is currently trying suspected I.R.A. bomb making experts Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan (arrested in 2001) for allegedly training FARC rebels. Senior Colombian police told Time Magazine that FARC paid the trio $2 million for bomb building and (home made) mortar use training. Similarly, the ETA is also abetting the FARC, a charge the Basque group has not denied. 

Recently, FARC has favored rigging entire buildings as command detonated mines.
On the 14th, a massive explosion ripped through a house in Neiva (250 miles southwest of the capital) being searched by police investigating a plot to kill President Uribe. The blast killed 18 people and left a hole five yards deep, scattered debris for blocks. The rebels had planned to kill Uribe either by detonating the bomb as his plane flew low overhead (the house was under the flight path) or by firing mortar rounds at it.

The police also just seized 184 kilos of dynamite, Antipersonnel mines, pentonite bombs, other substances used in the construction of improvised explosive devices, electronic detonators and "det cord" the day before in numerous working-class neighborhoods in Medellin and in Bello. Police confiscated a Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher, nine RPG rounds, two grenade launchers, 57 grenades, assorted small arms, military uniforms, radio communications equipment, computers, motorcycles, 2,540 rifle rounds and rebel documents. The raids on the Army of National Liberation (ELN) arsenal also led to the capture of 11 suspected rebels and frustrated ELN's planned escalation of bombings targeting state and private sector objectives in Medellin.

On January 19, the army stormed into the village of La Union and tried to disarm a half-ton command detonated mine left inside a house. Finding that impossible, they had to blow it in place. The house was replaced with a 3-foot-deep crater and homes for 100 yards in every direction collapsed. FARC had hauled the command detonated mine into La Union in December, planning to detonate it by remote control whenever an army patrol passed through. - Adam Geibel


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