Colombia governor says he escaped two armed attacks in 24 hours

Governor of central Meta department says he was unharmed in attacks in region where dissident rebel fighters operate.

This file photo shows a Colombian soldier standing guard during the army's arrival to an area that was previously occupied by FARC rebels, in Meta, Colombia, in 2017 [File: Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters]

A Colombian governor has said he survived two armed attacks in 24 hours in a region of the South American nation where FARC dissident fighters operate.

Juan Guillermo Zuluaga, governor of the central Meta department, south of the capital Bogota, told W Radio the first attack happened on Sunday when the vehicle he was travelling in “was hit by a sniper”.

Then, he said “an explosive device” was detonated on Monday afternoon as a caravan of vehicles Zuluaga was travelling in passed by.

Zuluaga escaped both incidents unharmed but an adult and a six-year-old child were injured by “the shards from the explosive device”, he said.

The liberal governor added that he was warned about a third planned attack “at a site where we were intending to go”.

The region was the former bastion of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the left-wing rebel group that laid down arms after the signing of an historic peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016.

But FARC dissidents who rejected the agreement continue to operate in the country, and President Ivan Duque’s government has blamed them for a series of attacks in recent months.

In July, the government arrested 10 FARC dissidents accused of being involved in attacks on a helicopter carrying Duque and on a military base.

Colombia has seen a surge in violence amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the country’s human rights ombudsman said in April that more than 27,000 people had been displaced in the first quarter of 2021.

“In various parts of Colombia, there has been an intensification of violence and increased territorial and social control by non-state armed groups and criminal groups,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in its annual report for 2020.

The UN said it had documented an increased number of massacres and human rights violations against rights defenders last year in areas without a strong state presence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also said in March that at least 389 people – mostly civilians – were killed by explosive devices in Colombia in 2020, the highest tally since 2016.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera