Drones Pose New Threat on Colombia’s Pacific Coast

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The discovery of two drones in the department of Nariño has raised fears about what impact such technology could have on the current conflict in the southwest of Colombia. 

On September 19, the Colombian Army announced that an operation had seized two Syma drones, loaded with 600 grams of explosives, on the road connecting the municipalities of Pasto and Tumaco, in the department of Nariño.

According to investigators in charge of the operation, from the Special Brigade Against Drug Trafficking (Brigada Especial contra el Narcotráfico – BRACNA), two detonators and various types of shrapnel were found alongside the explosives. 

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According to authorities, the drones and detonators came from Ecuador and Peru.

In an official press release, the army declared that the drones allegedly belonged to the Oliver Sinisterra Front (Frente Oliver Sinisterra – FOS), dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). The FOS, currently led by alias “Comandante Gringo,” was allegedly planning to carry out attacks against the military and civilian population in Tumaco.  

Signal inhibitors were used to carry out the operation, conducted in coordination with the police, so as to avoid the devices being activated remotely during the controlled destruction of the explosives.  

InSight Crime Analysis 

While there have been reports of drones allegedly being used by criminal groups in Colombia for surveillance purposes, this is the first time drones have been registered as a weapon and their impact on the armed conflict in Nariño is unclear. 

The financial and technological investment involved is not difficult, as these devices can easily be obtained on the open market. But the potential use of drones to transport explosives in a remote part of Colombia could reflect ex-FARC Mafia groups trying out new combat strategies. 

The FOS, previously led by Walter Patricio Arizala, alias “Guacho,” has been known for its use of unconventional weapons, such as anti-personnel mines, fuel bombs triggered by passing army troops, and hidden stashes of explosives that detonated when army helicopters landed nearby, as Semana reported.

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However, the advantages drones could provide, or other plans that the group may have for employing the use of this technology, are yet not clear. According to information divulged by authorities, the explosives were stuck to the drones to completely destroy the vehicle at the moment of detonation.  

Although authorities believe they were to be deployed against public security forces, it is worth noting the FOS has been weakened of late, due to disputes with the United Guerrillas of the Pacific (Guerrillas Unidas del Pacífico – GUP) and a criminal group led by alias “Contador” as they vie for control of one of Colombia’s largest coca cultivation enclaves. 

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