Two Colombian soldiers killed in suspected rebel attack

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At least two soldiers were killed and 11 injured in an attack by suspected leftist rebels using explosives, Colombia’s army said on Wednesday.

The soldiers were traveling in a vehicle close to the border with Venezuela when they hit an “improvised explosive device,” the army said in a statement.

In a tweet, army general Eduardo Zapateiro described the attack as a “terrorist act that flagrantly violates international humanitarian law.”

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The attack is believed to have been carried out by National Liberation Army guerrillas, although the group has not commented on it.

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The ELN is the last active rebel group operating in Colombia and has been since the historic 2016 peace deal that ended a half century of armed combat by the significantly larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia group.

Colombia’s military high command accuses Venezuela’s government of providing a safe haven for ELN guerrillas who then cross the border to carry out attacks.

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Authorities in Bogota say there are around 900 ELN guerrillas hiding on the other side of the border, a claim denied by Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro.

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The ELN began peace talks in 2018 with Colombia’s then-president Juan Manuel Santos.

But his successor Ivan Duque called those off after a car bomb attack on a police academy in January 2019 killed 22 people.

The ELN has around 2,300 fighters and an extensive support network in urban centers.

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Colombia is facing its worst wave of violence since the signing of the 2016 deal, according to the peace tribunal set up to investigate alleged rights abuses during the decades-long conflict.

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Dissident FARC rebels, ELN guerrillas, armed drug-trafficking groups and rightwing paramilitaries are all involved in a bloody battle to control the lucrative cocaine and illegal mining markets.

(AFP)

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