FARC Diversifying Tactics with Unconventional Explosives

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With Colombia’s largest rebel army increasingly relying on hit-and-run tactics, they have demonstrated cunning methods of orchestrating bombings, using trees and animals to mask explosive devices.

Within the last week, two separate reports emerged linking the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to unconventional explosive devices. In the first incident in the traditional guerrilla stronghold of Valle del Cauca, southwest Colombia, members of the military found several explosives hanging from trees in bags (see above image), reported El Pais.

The following day, newspaper El Espectador reported that the FARC had tortured a farmer who refused to plant a bomb on a donkey in the neighboring department of Cauca. The man had his mouth sewn shut with wire and received several stab wounds from the alleged guerrillas who had apparently intended to use the animal to attack a local police station.

InSight Crime Analysis

Though these two cases present some of the more unique tactics being used by the FARC, they are by no means isolated. The recent attack in the port city of Tumaco where a supposed bicycle bomb killed at least seven, including police officers, revealed the devastating effect unconventional bombs can have for the guerrillas while minimizing the group’s own casualties.

Events in recent years have also suggested that the rebels occasionally use unwitting members of the public, particularly poor people or children, to carry an explosive device before detonating it once in the proximity of its target.

Combined, these examples point to the increasing move towards hit-and-run style tactics by the FARC, carried out by smaller units as opposed to the larger FARC Fronts. This has largely been a result of the government’s increasing military presence in traditional guerrilla strongholds in the south and center of the country, and the group’s dwindling numbers over the last decade, down from some 20,000 during the 1998-2002 peace talks to roughly 8,000 today.

As InSight Crime has noted, the increasing diversification towards unconventional tactics has made recent FARC proclamations about the abandonment of its historic practice of kidnapping seem more sincere than in the past.

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