Three Bombs in Colombian City as Rebels Increase Extortion

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Another bomb, the third in a week, exploded outside the offices of a wealthy rancher in the city of Neiva in the southern department of Huila, a stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

 The rebels, who have reduced their kidnapping operations as they have become fully mobile in the face of pressure from the US-backed military, have increased their extortion demands to make up for the shortfall.  Extortion is now second only the drug trafficking for FARC revenues.

Neiva, and much of the department of Huila, is home to the FARC’s elite unit the Teofilo Forero Mobile Column.  The Teofilo Forero came to the fore during the failed peace process of President Andres Pastrana (1999-2002), where it provided security for members of the rebel’s ruling body, the seven-man Secretariat.  It has been behind some of the highest profile FARC actions like the blowing up of the exclusive El Nogal social club in Bogota in February 2003, which left 36 people dead and up to 200 injured.

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