Police Chief Backs Down from Accusing FARC of Bogota Bomb

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Bogota’s police chief has backed down from his assertion that the FARC were behind the May 15 bomb attack on ex-Minister Fernando Londoño, but warned the rebels are seeking to increase their presence in Colombia’s capital.

In the aftermath of the May 15 attack, which killed two and injured more than 50, General Luis Eduardo Martinez was one of the most prominent officials to blame the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), stating, “What I can confirm with bluntness … is that behind the [attack] are the FARC terrorists.” The government of Juan Manuel Santos has so far been hesitant to attribute the attack to any group.

In an interview with El Colombiano, however, Martinez admitted that, until a full investigation is carried out, the true culprits in the attack will not be known.

Martinez added, “I always say things how I feel them and how I see them, but one must be cautious.”

Martinez reiterated his belief, however, that the guerrillas are responsible for a car bomb that was deactivated in southern Bogota hours before the Londoño attack. Two people have since been arrested in connection with that case.

The general also warned that the FARC are looking to increase their presence in the capital. According to Martinez, 13 rebels have been arrested in the city so far this year, with the most recent allegedly belonging to the Teofilo Forero Mobile Column, one of the group’s most powerful units.

InSight Crime Analysis

Though there may be an element of political pressure in Martinez’s backtracking — El Colombiano questioned whether Santos had silenced the police chief, something Martinez denied — it highlights the uncertainty around who planted the bomb on Londoño’s vehicle. As InSight Crime noted, though the FARC may be most likely culprits, far-right groups also have a powerful motive to make Colombia appear unsafe and to hit Santos’ security credentials.

If the FARC are responsible for the bomb, Martinez’s claim that a rebel belonging to the Teofilo Forero was arrested in Bogota this year could provide an insight into the unit behind the attack. Though the Teofilo Forero typically operates in the south of the country — it is controlled by the FARC’s Southern Bloc — it has been known to be active in Bogota, carrying out the 2003 El Nogal club bombing in the capital, which killed 36 and injured more than 200.

While the rebels have scaled down their attacks in Bogota since the 2003 bombing, accused of committing just one other major attack, with a bomb outside the Caracol Radio office in August 2010, it is unlikely they ever left the capital as Martinez implies. Their access to Bogota has been hindered considerably since they lost control of the Sumapaz mountain range in Cudinamarca province during the first years of Alvaro Uribe’s presidency, but the guerrilla group’s Eastern Bloc is known to operate the Bogota-based Urban Network Antonio Nariño (Red Urbana Antonio Nariño – RUAN), a non-uniformed urban militia.

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